Soaking in the baby life

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I was studying Tiffany this morning and realized that the little black hairs growing on the tops of her ears are gone. I didn’t even notice when that happened. So I thought I should write about my favorite things about Tiffany these first four months so I don’t forget.

Tiffany is a sweet, cuddly, smiley, chatty, active baby. She likes to move and also make her opinions known. When she starts talking, you can’t make her stop. And she can get really loud.

Clarissa is probably her favorite person. Life is just better when her big sister walks into the room. Sometimes she is inconsolable with me or Tim and Clarissa comes over. The tears instantly stop. She thinks Clarissa is hilarious and Clarissa is not afraid to do something crazy in order to make Tiffany laugh.

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I don’t have pictures of all of these things. But I should probably try in case she stops doing them.

  • When I change Tiffany’s diaper, she likes to lay there with her hands behind her head. She often sleeps this way too. Also, she kicks like crazy when I try to change her diaper. This is why Clarissa gave her the nickname “Squirmy Wormy.”
  • When I lean down and get ready to kiss her, she opens her mouth really wide, like she is going to eat my face.
  • When Tiffany smiles, she has a dimple under her right eye.

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  • Her hands are her favorite part of her body. She sucks on her hands if she is tired or hungry or bored… Her hands are usually in her mouth. She even tries to put her hands in her mouth while nursing and while sucking on her pacifier. Sometimes she puts her hands in too far and she throws up.
  • She has a cute way of sucking her thumb. She doesn’t put the whole thumb in her mouth, just the top part to the bottom of her nail.
  • Tiffany would not take a pacifier until we got home from our Christmas trip. Now I can give her a pacifier at naptime. The only trouble is that when the pacifier falls out, I have to put it back in. If it falls out after she has fallen asleep, she wakes up. Her daytime naps usually only last about 30 minutes for this reason. I tried giving her a pacifier with a giraffe stuffed animal attached, but when she played with the giraffe, the pacifier came out of her mouth. Now I give her the giraffe pacifier for her hands and put a normal pacifier in her mouth. Generally at night, she nurses to sleep so she doesn’t use a pacifier.
  • I have yet to be able to tame Tiffany’s hair. It seems curly after the bath and when I brush it down, it does not go completely flat. I originally tried brushing it forward so she didn’t look bald. But really, part of her hair just sticks up. All. The. Time.0127200843d1355197495079266315.jpg
  • She pulls my and Clarissa’s hair every chance she gets. I pretty much live in a pony tail for this reason.
  • As a general rule, Tiffany does not like to be alone. She gets frustrated if I put her anywhere and then take more than a minute to come back. When she was still sleeping in our bedroom, she would not go to sleep for the night until Tim was in bed snoring.
  • Sometimes when I rub her back, she tries to rub the back of my arm.
  • She doesn’t hate the car seat as much now as she used to. I have learned the formula. I have to nurse her within an hour of leaving the house and change her diaper immediately before entering the car seat. The music also has to be on and we can’t sit idle for very long so the highway is preferable to a route with many stop lights.
  • When she was a newborn and she was upset, she would get your attention by saying, “Eh, eh, eh.” Now she has a much wider range of sound.

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Also, Tiffany’s four month check up last week was the first time she was on the growth chart in all areas (she had previously been off the chart in height). She is now 18 pounds 2 ounces (98th percentile) and 25.75 inches long (94th percentile). Her head circumference is in the 97th percentile.

What my c section taught me about rest (and asking for help)

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The first month or two of Clarissa’s life, I was pretty miserable. She would pretty much only sleep if someone was holding her, which was fun during the day but frustrating at night. Most nights about 3 AM I would question why I became a mom. I remember several mornings, Tim would wake up for work about 6 AM and walk by me in the nursing chair and I would say, “I have not slept yet!”

Then, magically at two months old, Clarissa learned the difference between night and day. By that I mean that she started sleeping consistently from 2 – 7 AM. Once I started sleeping, I was so glad to be a mom.

Some days in the first few weeks, I was really tired and sore so I spent most of the day on the couch watching Netflix with Clarissa and Josie. Other days I felt pretty good so I would vacuum and clean the house. I always overdid it so the following day was usually a couch day to recover.

Going into the end of Tiffany’s pregnancy, I planned to relax more. Tim was planning to be home for two weeks and then Mom was planning to stay with us for a week as well. I wanted to relax and heal the first two weeks and then hopefully do some fun things with Mom before I was home alone with two kids and getting used to our new normal.

I was really tired and sore towards the end of my pregnancy with Tiffany. My belly was huge so if I did a lot of walking, I really felt it and I also had some carpal tunnel. I was still cooking and doing laundry. But Clarissa and I were definitely watching a lot of movies and I was trying to give myself grace for not keeping the house super clean.

After about 44 hours of labor, Tiffany was born by cesarean section. That was not really on our radar. The original plan was for Tim to be in the hospital with me for our entire stay. That didn’t end up being what was best for Clarissa so they left shortly after Tiffany was born. They did not even get to hold her the night she was born.

Since I was on my own that first night, I really had to rely on the nurses to help me. I could get Tiffany out of the basinet when she cried but I couldn’t get her back in to the basinet. But the nurses were great so I would call them and they would swaddle her and put her back in the basinet for me.

The next morning, they did the usual blood work and decided that I needed a transfusion. Apparently I lost a lot of blood during the surgery and my iron count was at transfusion level. There was talk of a second transfusion, but we ultimately decided on iron pills instead.

The first two weeks that Tiffany was home, Tim was off of work. He entertained Clarissa and did the cooking, dishes, and laundry. I basically camped out in our bedroom with the baby and watched TV all day. It wasn’t how I originally envisioned my recovery, but a c section and stairs don’t mix. I went downstairs a couple of times per day to eat, but Tim carried Tiffany up and down the stairs for me.

My mom came for two weeks when Tim went back to work. She took care of the cooking and cleaning so I could continue to recover. She was available to drive to Tiffany’s appointments and to Co op so the girls and I were able to get out of the house some. But I didn’t last very long on my feet anyway.

Four weeks was the first time I was home alone with both Tiffany and Clarissa during the day. I was still really sore and was taking the stairs more so we ended up having a lot of movie afternoons and book snuggles on my bed. Tim took the laundry up and down the stairs for me after work. I started making dinner again. But that was about it for the next two weeks. My pain level actually got worse because I was doing more.

I didn’t start driving again until after Tiffany was 6 weeks old. I did reach a point a few days after the six week mark that I started to feel much better. I went from taking ibuprofen every 4 hours to once or twice per day.

Clarissa and I didn’t start school again until the six week mark either. It took a few days to find a groove with Tiffany. Eventually I learned to wear her while Clarissa and I did school.

Tiffany is two months old now and we are still trying to find our new normal. Thankfully she is a great sleeper. But I do spend several hours per day nursing. So between nursing, trying to give Clarissa attention, and school, I am back to mostly doing cooking, dishes, and laundry like I was before she was born. Thankfully I can drive now, but we wait for the weekend to run most of the errands with Tim.

If I had delivered Tiffany vaginally, I think I would have felt the need to keep up with the housework. I would have asked Tim to help, but not to the extent that I did. The pain level from a c section in addition to my anemia from the blood loss, left me unable to do many things so I had to ask for help. And I learned that people usually want to help you, they just don’t know how so you need to ask.

I am also learning to have grace for myself (and my family) for needing to rest. Sleep and down time are important. I am still only about 10 weeks out from major abdominal surgery so my body is still healing. It will take a while to be completely pain free and have the stamina to be active all day like I could before.

Channie’s Review

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With a new baby in the house, I was looking for school type things for Clarissa to work on that would not require a lot of supervision from me. Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks allowed us to do just that. We chose to review Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words and Neat Numbers.

We used Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words for our reading practice this month. Each flashcard is fairly large and has room for the printed sight word as well as a place to trace the same sight word. The paper is sturdy and can be reused several with a dry erase marker. Clarissa would read the word. If she didn’t know the word already, I would tell her what the word was and she would repeat it to me. Then, she would use a dry erase marker and trace the sight word. Finally, she would read the word again. She has learned quite a few sight words this way and I think we will continue to use a few cards each day. With 100 sight words to choose from, it gives her a solid foundation in reading.

The second item we requested was Neat Numbers, which we planned to use for Math. You could call this a workbook or a paper pad. The front part of the workbook has a page, front and back for each number 1-20. The front of the page is for tracing. The back is for writing the numbers on your own. The next section is adding or subtracting with pictures. This part was frustrating for Clarissa because each side of the page was the exact same problem. She was bored easily with both of these sections. Though she did appreciate that there were several pictures of animals in the book. The third section was just addition and subtraction without pictures. It also had several different problems on the same page so Clarissa liked that better.

In addition to the two items we requested, Channies also sent us Big Block Alphabet to try. There was a piece of cardstock with a printed alphabet on one side and a cursive alphabet on the other. Clarissa was actually very excited to trace the cursive side. The workbook itself was really just a pad of paper to practice writing letters, which Clarissa did a couple of times.

Channie’s Dry Erase Flash Cards for Sight Words were Clarissa’s favorite of the three items we used. She thought the other two were a little babyish and they may have been too easy for first grade (they are listed as PK – K). I think if you have a child who needs the repetition of copying letters and numbers, this would be a great product though. There were several products available to review. You can read about the experience of other families here.

Alphabet, Number & Sight Word Dry Erase, Neat Numbers & Page a Day 2 Didgit Multiplication. {Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math workbooks Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

Brain Blox Review

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With anticipation of a new baby in the house this fall, I was trying to find things for Tim and Clarissa to do together while Tim was home for paternity leave. They really enjoy building things and playing games, so I thought that Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks by Brain Blox would be a great choice to review this month.

The day the Brain Blox arrived in the mail, Clarissa wasted no time. She opened the box immediately and got to work building different structures and pictures. She started with some suggestions from the instructions and then began creating things from her imagination. She worked for two hours straight and was upset when I told her that she had to stop for bath time. She was also upset that I would not let her bring the Brain Blox in the bathtub with her.

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As the days have progressed, Clarissa has continued to enjoy creating her own pictures. She has also enjoyed creating structures illustrated on the website.

The Brain Blox website has some amazing suggestions. There are pdf downloads of structures and pictures to make. There are also logic puzzles included where the puzzle shows where to start and then suggests moving a certain number of blocks to create something new. There are also a few curriculum idea downloads, especially for math.

My mom was surprised that Brain Blox were simply wooden blocks, they do not interlock like other systems. But Clarissa does not seem to mind that. She just likes the freedom to create what she wants. She was also excited about the suggestion in one of the downloads that she is allowed to decorate her Brain Blox so she can for example, create different characters to act out a story. I think she will be decorating some of her Brain Blox with faces in the near future so that she can use them to act out stories better.

For the most part, Clarissa really enjoyed Brain Blox. Some of the pictures were difficult for her six year old self to recreate so that was frustrating to her. But she really enjoyed the ability to make up her own creations. I think this is something she will use for several years. I would like to try some of the math and reading suggestions once Tiffany (the baby) is a little older and we are in a good groove with school again. We will probably use the Brain Blox to spell sight words and as math manipulatives. You can read about how other families used Brain Blox here.

Brain Blox Wooden Building Planks {Brain Blox Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Our favorite books for six year old girls

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One thing that has been consistent for Clarissa over the years is that she loves books. When she was 2 and 3 years old, she would tell me that she could not go to bed or turn out her light yet because “I’m still reading!” She is actually starting to read books on her own now, but for the most part, I still read to her at least a half hour each day. These are some of her favorite books right now.

  • Clarissa still enjoys the Berenstain Bears. We like that there are so many different books so you can read based on the season or whatever we are working on in school and not get bored.
  • Fancy Nancy is still a favorite as well. She likes that Nancy is in first grade like her and has a little sister. She also likes that Nancy uses fancy words and wears costumes like she does.
  • One of the books we earned during a summer reading program this summer is The Princess in Black. It is a series of six books (so far). Princess Magnolia has her own castle and friends. But she also has a monster alarm ring that goes off and tells her when the monsters leave Monster Land to attack the goats. She has to rescue the goats and send the monsters back to Monster Land. None of her friends know that she is the Princess in Black, they are just confused about why she randomly leaves events. It’s a cute series.
  • Another new discovery this summer was Katie Woo. Katie Woo has great adventures with her friends Pedro and Jojo. She’s just an everyday kid with friends who goes to school and does normal stuff. But Clarissa really enjoys these books as well.

Clarissa’s birthday museum adventure

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Every time we take Tim to work, we see the Washington Monument in the distance. Clarissa gets really excited and points and shouts, “Look! It’s the tall tower!” When we asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday adventure she said she wanted to see the Dinosaur Museum and the Tall Tower.

Her adventure day was rainy. And we told her that we could go and see the outside of the Tall Tower but the inside would not be open until next month. So she decided that we could skip the Washington Monument this time and go back in the fall so we could see the whole thing.

We started the day by taking the same bus that Tim takes to work every morning. Then we took the metro into Washington DC. Our first stop was the National Air and Space Museum. Clarissa loved it. She thought the space shuttles were amazing and she enjoyed the kid exhibits that taught about friction and flight. She was even able to climb into a cockpit and pretend to fly an airplane. Some of the exhibits in the kid section were out of order and they are renovating the museum right now, so we will probably need to go back again to see everything.

We crossed the National Mall and saw the Capital Building on one side and the Washington Monument on the other, so she did get to see the Tall Tower from a distance.

Next, we headed to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Clarissa was able to see her dinosaurs. But she also really liked both the mammal and bird exhibits to see real animals instead of just bones. She was really excited about the dioramas in the fossil section as well. We didn’t head upstairs to see the bugs because we were getting hungry, so I’m sure we’ll be back.

We went to Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. All three of us enjoy the food there so we knew it would be a good choice.

After lunch, Clarissa asked for one more museum. We decided to the try the International Spy Museum. I’m not going to lie. This museum is pricey. Clarissa was free because she was 6 but the adult prices are over $20, even with a discount. Clarissa loved it, so I guess it was worth it. But Tim and I would have preferred to go by ourselves to really enjoy the experience.

When you go into the museum, the staff hands you a lanyard that you scan into the computer. The computer gives you a secret identity. Then, they usher you into a room to watch a movie about being a spy before releasing you into the general museum. There were a few computers to get clues and work on your mission. However, it was a really crowded, rainy, Friday in the summer, so we couldn’t get near the computers. The exhibits were very informative, but Clarissa blew through them because it required a lot of reading and she just isn’t there yet. So we looked at some pictures and spy stuff, but didn’t really get the full experience.

The next floor wasn’t quite as crowded, so we did a little bit with the computers and reviewed some clues. Clarissa was excited to find her clue and scan her lanyard. The exhibits were very informative and had video as well as text on the walls. I think this museum is geared toward tweens/teens and adults. Clarissa wasn’t afraid of anything at the museum, but I think she would have gotten way more out of it if she was older.

After the third museum, the pregnant lady was pretty tired, so we headed back. We took the metro back to the Pentagon and then the bus back home. On the walk home she said, “This was the best day ever!”

We wanted to watch a spy movie but couldn’t think of one that was really appropriate for Clarissa (other than Bolt which she’s seen a hundred times) so we ended up watching some White Collar. She was really into it after the museum so we’ll have to find a spy movie for her.

Clarissa is 6!

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Most days, I feel like six years has flown by. But in other ways, I feel like we’ve lived so much life in those six years that it’s hard to remember life before Clarissa was born.

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The nice thing about having a blog (and Facebook memories) is that it’s fun to be able to look back and remember things that have happened. So I’ve spent some time reading Clarissa memories this week. Clarissa let me read some of them to her and she laughed at some of the posts. Some things I had forgotten about. Others I am surprised she still does. For example, I think that the list of foods she will actually eat gets smaller each year and she still says “back pag” and “sun scream.”

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But in other ways, Clarissa has really grown. We did actually do kindergarten at home  and this summer she started to read on her own. She really will only read during “school time” and prefers me to read books to her. She also refuses to sound things out when she is writing. She asks me to spell things for her so that they can be correct. But I’ll take it… She is looking forward to continuing first grade at home this fall after Tiffany arrives.

She is really excited to be a big sister. I think she will be a good helper. And the six year age gap means that they will be in different stages all the time so I think sibling rivalry will be less. She still loves her bunk bed but is adamant that she doesn’t want to share her room which is completely different than last year.

Clarissa still loves playing in water. In Korea, she mostly played in the bath tub. In America, there are more options. Our townhouse complex has some communal hoses that the kids use to spray each other or for sprinklers. She never experienced this in Korea and this is one of her favorite things. When we went to Virginia Beach, she loved jumping over the waves in the ocean. She has enjoyed playing in the pool this month with her new co-op friends. I think we need to invest in swimming lessons next year once Tiffany allows us to be on a schedule.

This is only her second birthday in America, though it is the first one that she will remember (we moved to South Korea when she was 18 months old). She spent the day at the pool with her new friends from co-op and all afternoon she kept saying to me, “This is the best day of my entire life!” Apparently when you are 6, swimming with your friends is important.

Clarissa has really been settling into life in America. We have been here about three months and she really enjoys the fact that most people speak English and that we have a car during the week to go on adventures whenever we want to. She has made friends with several neighbors and plays outside whenever she can. She makes a new friend every time we go to the playground. I am looking forward to fall when we have weekly park days to see the same group of kids each week to build deeper relationships.

Clarissa also is excited about being only a few hours away from each set of grandparents. She has already seen each set twice and has made some memories with them as well as her cousin.

Clarissa enjoys our new church. She has a few friends in her Sunday school class and looks forward to learning her memory verse each week. She continues to enjoy reading Bible stories and doing crafts at home. She is interested to know if our neighborhood friends love Jesus and will ask people outright if they love God or go to church. She even tried to baptize herself in the bathtub this year.

She isn’t as in to toys right now. She is all about her stuffed animals though. Everywhere we go, she needs to bring a backpack full of stuffed animals. They don’t always leave the backpack during the adventure. But they are available if she wants them. She tells people, “I have enough animals to make my own zoo!” And she’s probably right. She often takes containers and fills them with animals to make a zoo in her bedroom or the living room. The animals need to look real so they can’t wear clothes or have tags on them. The tags of new animals have to get cut off in the car. She also says, “I love all animals, ocean animals, and bugs infinity.”

Clarissa is also very into dressing up. While it’s true, she would rather wear a skirt or dress than shorts, that’s not what I mean. She often is in costume. If we watch a movie, she will often pretend to be the main character in the movie later in the day or the next day. She needs a costume and accessories to look like the main character. If the colors aren’t correct, she will get upset. She’s a bit of a perfectionist. She also gets very upset about being a princess. She says she is a warrior instead.

The funniest thing she says right now is “I am the mayor of Crazy Town.” I don’t remember exactly how that started. I think Tim said something to her once because she was being silly but she ran with it. She will tell you that she is the mayor of Crazy Town, Mittens is the mayor of Mewkins Town, Mommy is the mayor of Cooking Town, and Daddy is the mayor of Electronics Town. I wonder what Tiffany will be the mayor of?

 

Learning Dynamics Review

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Clarissa and I did kindergarten together at home this year. She loves math and wants me to read to her all day long. But when it comes to learning how to read she gets excited about a new program for about a week and then gets frustrated that it is too hard and wants to stop.  We have tried a few different programs without success. So I was excited to try the Learning Dynamics Reading Program produced by Learning Dynamics.

The program recommends 15 minutes per day, at least 3 days per week. It starts pretty slow by learning one letter sound each in the first five lessons before you review them together in lesson 6. Even though Clarissa already knows most of her letters and sounds, I chose to start at lesson 1. I thought this would build her confidence, and I was correct. She actually really enjoyed the first few lessons and would ask to do more than one per day.

Each lesson had a few different components. There were three different flash cards for each letter. She enjoyed looking at those and collecting the small cards. Though eventually she invented her own games with them. There is an alphabet song that is supposed to be played at every lesson. Clarissa isn’t very big into kid songs, so halfway through, she had her hands over her ears. The same thing happened with each individual letter song so after the first couple of lessons, I didn’t bother with the songs. She was really excited about the letter hunts at the end of each lesson.

M was the first letter. At the end of that lesson, we were to walk around the house and find things that start with the “mmm” sound. She received an M&M for each word she found. The same thing happened with p for popcorn. She also enjoyed coloring the words that started with the correct letter. I think she also appreciated that it was only one page of written work each day. She had to write one row of lower case letters and color a few pictures so it was quick and easy.

By the end of the review period she was getting frustrated with the coloring page. She wanted to color in all of the pictures. So I made her tell me which words started with the correct letter before she started coloring. Then she would tell me which sound the other pictures started with.

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The program comes with four sets of books: blue, red, yellow, and green. She was excited to read those books before we got to them. So we definitely previewed each set of books before she was supposed to read them herself.

I am excited to report that we finally found a reading program that Clarissa enjoys! She said to me at one point, “I like reading now!” and she is getting to be a better reader everyday. After lesson 6, there is practice with blending words each day. She is pretty good at blending the three letter words now. She will read the simple books too. The first couple of books were single words on a page. It took a few books before she was supposed to read sentences, which was great, because by then she was ready.

I appreciated that each book had a list of words at the beginning of the book. In this way, we were able to practice the words before we actually tried to read the book. Clarissa already was familiar with most of the words before she saw them in the book so she didn’t have to spend as much time sounding out each word in the book. She enjoyed reading more that way. There are also comprehension questions to ask at the end of each book to make sure that your reader understood what they read and didn’t just sound out the words.

This video is book 7 of the blue book series. She has only completed lesson 18 of 41 in Lesson Manual one.

The lesson manual spells out which books you are supposed to read with each lesson. Books 1-13 are for lessons 9-33. Lessons 34-42 are two vowel lessons, where you will finish reading the blue set of books (books 14-23). Then there is a second part of the lesson manual that goes more in depth with advanced sounds and the other three set of books. I think it will take us several months to finish this program.

I am excited that most of the pieces of this program are reusable. The only part I will need to replace is the student workbook when I need to teach my second daughter to read in a few years. You can read about what other families thought of the program here.

Learning Dynamics Reading Program  {Learning Dynamics Reviews}Crew Disclaimer

Happy Third Trimester to me!

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Today marks the beginning of the third trimester in Tiffany’s pregnancy. In some ways, I am so ready to meet her. And in other ways, I am glad she has a few months before she joins us. I think I would feel more ready if our furniture from Korea was in our current house. Soon enough. With about twelve weeks to go, the house will be ready in plenty of time for her arrival.

At Clarissa’s twenty week ultrasound, they had a few concerns. There was a small hole in her heart and she had a “bright bowel.” They had concerns about things like Down Syndrome and Cystic Fibrosis. This was terrifying for a first time mom, but the blessing in it was that they sent me to EVMS (the local medical school) for further testing and ultrasounds. I got to see extra clear pictures of Clarissa at 22 weeks and 28 weeks and then another set at 35 weeks. By 22 weeks, the heart in her heart had closed and by 28 weeks her bowels were fine. She just wasn’t “ready” at the earlier ultrasound times.

With Tiffany, the ultrasound schedule has been completely different. While we were in Korea, they did an ultrasound at every appointment. We have been looking at things like her brain, spine, and liver since the beginning. We left Korea at about 20 weeks so they didn’t get to my anatomy scan before we left. My only ultrasound at my American doctor was at 24 weeks and I had to ask for that since I missed the 20 week anatomy scan that most people get. Her ultrasound showed that everything was fine, so that was the only ultrasound my ob plans to do this pregnancy.

On the one hand, I was glad for this. Tiffany is healthy. There are no concerns. On the other hand, I was sad. I got to see clear pictures of Clarissa’s face all the time. And we still had not really seen a great picture of Tiffany’s face. We decided that we would go to a special place that specializes in 4d elective ultrasounds. We went to InfantSeeHD in Fairfax.

Maria, our ultrasound tech was wonderful! She was super excited to see our baby. She had me move around in different positions so that we could see more. Tiffany had one of her feet in her face pretty much the entire time, but Maria was able to move around so that we could see her whole face anyway. She also said that Tiffany already has a full head of hair. We also got to watch Tiffany practice sucking on the placenta.

I’m not going to lie. There was a little bit of sticker shock when we saw the price for the ultrasound packages. Because there were concerns with Clarissa, insurance paid for all of her extra ultrasounds so I had no concept about how much these things normally cost. But we did get a full video recording of the thirty minute session and 84 still images on a jump drive.

Then, I wanted to celebrate. So we decided to check out Happy Tart, a gluten free bakery, in Falls Church. We parked in the garage for Pearson Square and it was really easy to find. The prices were reasonable for gluten free treats. Cookies and macaroons were $1.75. Cupcakes were $4.50 each. They also had bags of English muffins and drinks for sale. Clarissa loved her cookie. Tim and I thought the cupcakes were delicious. We will definitely be back!

Then we finished our evening with dinner in Shirlington. Since it was my choice, I chose Guapo’s for a Mexican dinner. I pretty much always love my Mexican food. The impressive part was that Tim enjoyed his dinner too.

How my second pregnancy compares to my first

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With six years between pregnancies, sometimes it’s interesting to me to think about the things that are different and the things that are the same.

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I was 29 when I was pregnant with Clarissa. We got pregnant very quickly once we started trying. I was surprised at how quickly I felt like I started showing. Most of my friends who were pregnant about that time were losing weight during their first trimester but I gained 8 pounds. I didn’t get that sick as long as I kept eating, which is why I gained weight in the beginning when everyone else was losing. I was so concerned that I was going to be huge by the time it was over, but I was fine. I only gained about 35 pounds total.

At 35, it took a few months longer to get pregnant with Tiffany. I feel like I started showing before I even knew I was pregnant (and I found out at 3 weeks!). I think I gained 12 pounds during the first trimester? But I weighed more before I got pregnant this time so I felt like I was way bigger. I was more sick in the beginning and I had to avoid certain foods or I would get sick. But in general, I had to eat every couple of hours. At 25 weeks, I have already gained 30 pounds so I anticipate that I will gain more than 35 pounds this pregnancy.

I am more relaxed this pregnancy.  Well, we did move to a different continent, so maybe peaceful is a better word. With Clarissa, I had several friends who had miscarried and I was so worried that I was going to lose her. That is why God told me early on that she would be “a little girl with great faith.” And even then, I was worried when things weren’t perfect on the ultrasounds.

With Tiffany, I had ultrasounds every appointment in Korea. That probably helped me to know that she was fine. I didn’t really have a word for her other than the day we found out we were pregnant God told me that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life.” So when we found out we were having a girl, I really didn’t have any ideas for names right away.

I switched obs during both pregnancies. With Clarissa, I didn’t care for several doctors in the group that I was going to see. I wasn’t concerned at first because I really thought that we would move to Korea at that time. But when it became clear that wasn’t happening right away, I switched doctors. We did do a natural child birth class where the teacher talked about all of the natural things to do and talked about how bad epidurals were. I wasn’t really prepared for my 54 hours of back labor and really felt defeated that I got an epidural at like hour 45.

The reason I switched obs this round is that we moved from South Korea to Northern Virginia. It was harder than I thought it was going to be to switch obs. First of all, prenatal care is different in Korea than it is in America so my records were “incomplete” because they did different tests. And then there was the fact that some of my records aren’t in English. So it was difficult to find an ob to accept my records. Eventually they did when I went in person to explain my records.

They eventually were like, “Oh are you State Department?”

“No, but my husband works for the government.”

“So the government sent you to Korea for four years?”

“Yes.”

“Ok, then you’re fine.”

So basically, if we had been missionaries, English teachers, or just expats returning from Korea, they wouldn’t have accepted an otherwise healthy patient with insurance?!

I did get to do an anatomy scan at my 24 week appointment with the new ob since I hadn’t had the official anatomy scan. They confirmed that Tiffany is definitely a girl and everything looks great. And then they proceeded to ask me if I wanted to do genetic testing to make sure that everything was fine because ultrasounds don’t catch anything. I was like, “as long as insurance covers it, you can do blood work. But I’m not paying for anything out of pocket.” So the blood work people call and tell me how much it will cost if insurance doesn’t pay for testing but can’t tell me if my insurance will pay anything, even though they know what my deductible and copay could be…I declined the testing and they were surprised. With Clarissa I would have paid the ridiculous price just to have peace of mind. But this round, I am not worried about the baby. She’s fine. And even if she isn’t for some reason, she’s still our baby.

I am not dreading the labor and delivery process, per say, but I don’t know that I am looking forward to it either. If I have back labor again, I will not hesitate to get an epidural this round. I may get one anyway and not feel like a failure. Clarissa was healthy with an epidural. God has given us medical technology so there is no shame in using it.

Along the same lines, I tried to do everything naturally with Clarissa. I didn’t even take over the counter medications unless I absolutely had to. I tried to do neti pots and things like that instead of taking decongestants. This round, if it is on an approved list of medications, I take it without feeling bad about it. Especially when we were in Korea and I was getting headaches from the bad air.

I am interested to see how different Tiffany’s personality is than Clarissa’s. Clarissa is a mix of me and Tim, but more Tim than me. Tiffany is definitely really active in the womb like Clarissa was. But she is in a different position so I am hopeful that I won’t have back labor this round. I am also interested to see how this 6 year age gap plays out in their relationship. And what it will be like to be a mom of two. But I look forward to the challenge and know that God will guide Tim and I as we raise these beautiful girls.

It’s a good thing Clarissa had a change of heart…

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Until the end of last week, Clarissa was pretty adamant that she wanted a little brother. I was confused because she spent the past three years asking for a little sister. She finally told me why.

She doesn’t want to share her toys. An only child for five years gets used to having her own things. Clarissa assumed that if she had a baby sister, she would grow up to want to play with all of her toys. But a little brother would ignore her girly toys and play with his own. When I explained that a little brother would want to play with her toys too, she was very confused.

On Monday, the realtor asked Clarissa if she wanted a brother or a sister. She responded “both” and kissed my tummy.

We had an ultrasound on Tuesday. The doctor asked if we wanted to know the gender of the baby and we all said “Yes!” The translator said, “It’s probably a girl.” Clarissa was very upset, but not for the reason that you think. She said, “But is it a boy or a girl? Why don’t they know for sure?”

I guess Tim will name all of our children. The name Clarissa was his idea and it took a few days to grow on me. This time it did not take as long.

As we were walking out of the hospital, he said, “What do you think about Tiffany?” Tiffany means manifestation of God. Upon further research, Tiffany is a translation of the word epiphany and is often given to girls born on January 6. We actually found out that we were pregnant on January 6.

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By the time we arrived at dinner, the three of us agreed that her name is Tiffany Grace so “manifestation of God and grace.” This is the perfect name for her. If we got pregnant when we first started trying, she would be due in June which would be either very difficult or not possible with our PCS (moving) date. This way, our furniture that will take at least 3 months to arrive to our new house should arrive in August. We will have plenty of time to get our new home set up and comfortable before Tiffany comes in mid September. We didn’t know the timing of any of this, but God knew. And it also fits with the word that God gave me in the beginning of the pregnancy that “mercy and grace would follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Tim also had a vision a while ago that this child would be in ministry.

We of course followed dinner with a trip to the px to find some cute little girl clothes. We each had a different favorite, so we bought them all.

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I think that the reason that we could not tell the gender at the last ultrasound was that four weeks ago Clarissa was adamantly against having a baby sister. Now Clarissa is very excited about her baby sister. I think it helps that she has a name now too.

Our favorite books for babies and toddlers

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I have been reading to Clarissa since before she could talk. At first, she chomped on the books as I read them. But eventually she learned to sit and look at the books. We had several favorites when she was really small. These are our favorite books for babies and toddlers.

  • Time for Bed by Mem Fox
    I loved the repetition in this book. “It’s time for bed little sheep, little sheep. The whole wide world is going to sleep…” Clarissa loved the animals in the book. I would say goodnight and call her a different animal every night.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
    Clarissa really liked this one, I think because of the bunny. It rhymes and has decent pictures. As a bigger kid, she was confused about why they said goodnight to so many objects because “you don’t need to say goodnight to air.” But as a baby, she loved it.
  • God Made Me
    Clarissa loved this one because of all the animals. She liked to tell me the names of the animals in the pictures. I liked that she was learning that God made everything.
  • Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
    This is another rhyming book with wonderful pictures. I loved that this book taught Clarissa that no matter what, Mommy would always love her. And that even as a grown up she would know that she was loved.
  • On the Night You Were Born by Nancy Tillman
    Clarissa preferred this one because of all the adventures the animals had on the “wonderful, marvelous night she was born.”
  • God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    This is one in a series of books about Little Cub and her family. This one explains how Mommy and Daddy were excited that God was giving them a baby and some of the anticipation they had for baby’s birth and then what life was like when they brought baby home. She liked the bears.
  • Time for a Hug by Phillis Gershator and Mim Green
    This was Clarissa’s favorite book for about a year. She loved that the bunny and her mom had a hug like every hour of the day. I think she also liked that Daddy would hug her every time it happened in the book. This would also be a great book to teach little kids about a schedule.

Our favorite books for three year olds

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When Clarissa was three, she started having opinions about which books we picked from the library. Instead of just choosing whichever book she could reach, she usually had something in mind.

She had three favorite series of books that she kept going back to.

Little Critter
I grew up reading the Little Critter series by Mercer Mayer. In fact, my mother kept several of my books for me and so Clarissa has some of my favorite books from when I was a little girl. She enjoyed Little Critter’s adventures and the funny things that he does. He is easy for little kids to relate to. “I made you a sandwich, but I got hungry so I ate it…” His responses remind me of Clarissa, so I enjoy his antics as well.

Gerald and Piggie
I had never heard of Gerald and Piggie before we started attending storytime at the library on post. Gerald is a very cautious elephant and Piggie is his best friend, a very fun pig. They are very different but have many adventures together. I like that each page is dialogue and the stories are funny. They are pretty predictable too and we read them more than once, so I have a few videos of Clarissa “reading” me these books.

God gave us series
Most of these books are about Little Cub and her parents. She has so many questions about things. I like that Mama and Papa explain things in a way that she understands. She learns about how much God loves her, how God made her just for her family, Christmas, Easter, how God made the world. She even learns about things like heaven, angels, and sleep. There is also a wolf pup who learns about being thankful and how God gives us all different families.

The day Clarissa decided she wanted to be baptized

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Clarissa and I talked about baby Jesus a lot in December. We talked about his parents, his birth, the shepherds, the wise men; all of it, when we did Truth in the Tinsel.

This month, Clarissa and I are going to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and learn how to pray. Before we do that, I wanted to review some of the things we learned about Jesus. So one day we looked at the pictures in her Bible about Jesus’s dedication at the temple (at 8 days old) and about when His parents couldn’t find Him because He stayed at the temple (at 12 years old).

 

I wanted to move on to Jesus being baptized and our conversation took a very interesting turn. When we looked at the picture of Jesus being baptized, Clarissa said, “So when Jesus was being dedicated at the temple, it was like he was being baptized. That’s how babies are baptized. And then they get baptized as an adult too.” So we stopped to talk about it.

I explained that when babies are dedicated to the Lord, it is really about the parents. The parents are making a decision to raise their child to know who God is. The parents want their child to love Jesus so they pray that their child will love God. When an adult is baptized, it means something very different. When an adult is baptized it means that they want to show other people that they love Jesus.

 

Clarissa immediately said, “Oh. I love Jesus. I want to be baptized.” I explained that usually our pastor baptizes people in a river so we need to wait until it is warmer outside. But she was very adamant that she wanted to be baptized. Immediately. Right now. I told her she needed to wait at least another half hour until Daddy came home.

She agreed to that and got to work making a sign. “Mommy how to do you spell Baptized?” Then she put on her bathing suit and asked me to fill up the bath tub. She got impatient waiting for Tim so she decided to baptize herself. “Mommy, I did it!” What?

 

 

Then Tim got home and we talked about what happened when John baptized Jesus. And Clarissa was like, “I already got baptized, you don’t need to do it again…” She didn’t want us to dunk her.

I’m not sure this counts as her official baptism. I’m sure she’ll want to do it again when she’s older and understands it a bit better. But I so appreciated her heart and how she wanted to do it right now.

Our favorite books for four year olds

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Clarissa has always been a reader. I have pictures of her looking at books sprawled out on the floor before she could walk. She asks to visit the library often and requests that I read to her several times per day. If I am not available, she says “okay,” and then walks into her room, closes the door, and starts “reading” to herself. These were some of her favorites when she was four years old. Again, we have a lot of series of books on this list. Thought there were a few that were favorites by themselves.

  • At four, Clarissa was pretty much obsessed with Magic School Bus. She watched the show on netflix everyday and has several different books to read. Her favorites were Inside the Human Body and Time of the Dinosaurs. But we pretty much read any Magic School Bus book that we could find.
  • Gigi, God’s Little Princess is a wonderful series of books by Sheila Walsh. Clarissa says that Gigi “reminds her of Fancy Nancy, except that Gigi loves God.” She’s your typical five year old girl who has some crazy adventures with her best friend Frances. She has a cat named Tiara and a dog named Lord Fluffy. Gigi is also very into the color pink.
  • Usborne has several books about the human body. Clarissa really enjoys the lift the flap ones.
  • Gerald and Piggie books by Mo Willems were another favorite. Elephant Gerald and Piggie are best friends but they are so different. Piggie is fun and exciting and Gerald is a little more cautious but they have great adventures together. I also like that all of the books are written entirely in dialog.
  • Little Critter was one of my favorites when I was a little kid. Clarissa loves Little Critter and the crazy adventures that he has with his family. I like that he has a great family and that he is your typical kid. “I tried to make you lunch, but I got hungry…I didn’t forget to use soap, I just don’t like it…”
  • We bought Clarissa Lily’s Easter Party a few years ago to go with her Resurrection Eggs. She pulls the book out several times per year. I can’t put it away with the Easter things. She likes the story of friends having and Easter egg hunt. I like that she is learning more about the different parts of the Resurrection story.
  • I wrote a review about the Planet 316 Bible last year. It is Clarissa’s favorite Bible. She loves that she can use my phone to make the stories come to life. I like it because she is excited about reading Bible stories.

I need to write separate posts for Christmas and Easter because we have so many favorite books for those seasons.

Our Favorite Christmas Books for preschool and young elementary

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Clarissa has so many books that they don’t fit all fit on her bookshelf (side effect of your mother being a former reading teacher I suppose). There are certain books we like for each season so I rotate them out. I pull out the Christmas books about Thanksgiving time. But she knows where they are, so sometimes she will go and get them at random times during the year.

We have so many Christmas books that we really enjoy. This is our list of our favorite Christmas books for preschool and young elementary children.

  • Peek A Bible The Christmas Story by Tracy Harrast
    This is a lift the flap book that tells the Christmas story from Gabriel coming to see Mary until the wise men arrive to worship Jesus. Clarissa has always enjoyed lifting the flaps and I like that it is the true Biblical story.
  • Crystal Bowman’s Christmas board books are some of my favorites. I love the rhyme to the stories and the pictures are great. Clarissa really enjoys these as well.
    Jesus, Me, and My Christmas Tree talks about how every part of your Christmas tree (lights, the star, angels, presents, etc) points you back to Jesus, the real reason for Christmas.
    J is for Jesus talks about how a candy cane tells you Jesus’s story and gives details about the shepherds and angels at Christmas. It also talks about Jesus on the cross. Think Legend of the Candy Cane but for little ones.
    A Star for Jesus talks about how the star appeared in the sky and led the wise men to Jesus.
    My Christmas Stocking talks about St Nicholas and why we put presents in stockings today.
  • A Christmas Prayer by Amy Parker
    This rhyming book talks about being thankful for each part of the nativity set from the angel, to Mary and Joseph, the donkey, shepherds, star, and of course baby Jesus who was the best present of all.
  • God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren
    We like Little Cub in this house. In this installment, Mama takes Little Cub to go find God and see how He gave us Christmas. Little Cub is very excited that she can go and see God in things like the light, a glacier, and a star. They talk about how Jesus is the real reason for Christmas and the best gift ever.
  • The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
    I think I need to write a blog post specifically for her books. The Pine Tree Parable is about a family who comes to a poor family who comes to a pine tree farm and the little girl wants the biggest tree there. The family who owns the pine tree farm ends up gifting the family the tree, even though she was planning to keep it for their family. A wonderful story about giving.
  • Of course the Berenstain Bears have some fun Christmas books as well
    Trim the Tree is a flap book that watches the Bear family put up their Christmas Tree.
    In The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving, the cubs learn that it is better to give than to receive. They also are the camel in the Christmas Play where you can see the Nativity story.
    In The Very First Christmas, Papa Bear reads the cubs the Christmas story from the Bible. It has fun illustrations. Clarissa always thinks its funny that they are bears instead of people though.
  • The Twelve Days of Christmas in Virginia by Sue Corbett
    In this story, a brother and sister are supposed to visit their aunt in Virginia but the sister gets hurt so she can’t go. The brother writes his sister every day to tell about his adventures. We’re originally from Virginia so I like that Clarissa can learn a little bit about the state she’s from.
  • Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett
    I like this story better than the original Gingerbread Boy because this one isn’t obnoxious. He just wants some friends and goes on an adventure to find them.
  • The Three Gifts of Christmas by Jennie Bishop
    This is a new favorite for me this year. In the beginning of the story, the princess is quite spoiled. So the king and queen come up with a plan. By the end of the story, the princess has given away all of her gifts and become truly gracious and kind. Clarissa is a little unsure because she thinks I am going to make her give away all of her presents though.
  • The King’s Christmas List by Eldon Johnson
    Clarissa was more excited about this new book about giving. Emma and her dog are invited to the king’s palace for his birthday party. Along the way Emma gives away all of her presents for the king. The king explains to her the verse that talks about “whatever you do for the least of these you do for me.” The end of the book gives some suggestions on how your family can give a birthday present to Jesus. Clarissa immediately was like, “Let’s do that!”
  • Merry Christmas Mom and Dad by Mercer Mayer
    This book isn’t about Jesus at all. But. It has all of the usual Little Critter antics that we enjoy. He tries to get the ornaments out for mom, but the box was upside down. He wants to give her Christmas cookies but he got hungry. You get the idea…

 

As a side note, I noticed as I was linking these to Amazon, most of these books are on sale right now. They are also not new books, so some are available at your local library.

Our Favorite Thanksgiving Books

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If you’ve been around a while, you know that we love books in this house. I have special books that we only get out at certain times of year. Though Clarissa knows where they are so sometimes I have to go hunting for them. This year we found a new favorite at the library as well. There are so many books available to teach kids the history of Thanksgiving, but these are our current favorites.

  • An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving
    In this story by Louisa May Alcott, the mother and father get called away suddenly because her mother is sick. So the older daughters are left in charge for Thanksgiving. They make dinner but they don’t do it quite right. But the extended family comes home and has a wonderful evening together, complete with apple slump for dessert. The recipe was in the back of the book, so you know we had to make it. It was delicious!

  • God Gave Us Thankful Hearts
    I wrote about this book a few years ago when we first discovered Little Pup. It leads to great discussions about all the things we can be thankful for.
  • Berenstain Bears Give Thanks
    Papa makes a new table and chairs for Farmer Ben. His payment is a big turkey named Squanto. Sister Bear falls in love with Squanto and so they don’t end up eating him for Thanksgiving dinner. But Sister and the other cubs do put on a play about the first Thanksgiving.
  • The Littlest Pilgrim
    Mini is the smallest pilgrim in the village and gets frustrated because everyone says she is too small to help. This part frustrates Clarissa. But at the end she makes a friend so she likes it. I like that you get to see many of the chores during colonial times so Clarissa gets to see what life was actually like for a pilgrim girl like Mini.
  • Thank you, Sarah
    This is the story of how Thanksgiving became the national holiday that we celebrate on the fourth Thursday of November. A woman named Sarah Hale actually wrote letters for thirty eight years before Abraham Lincoln said yes to her idea of having a set day for Thanksgiving so that everyone in the country could celebrate on the same day. We like it because the book refers to her as a super hero. So she is a girl and her super power is writing. Both things are of value in this house.
  • Being Thankful
    At the beginning of the book Little Critter complains about everything. Then, he goes to visit his grandparents on their farm and learns about being thankful complete with a new thankful rock. He comes home and teaches his sister what it means to be thankful. (Clarissa painted thankful rocks for everyone in our house after reading this book…)

Our favorite books for five year old girls

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Clarissa and I read A LOT. We read as part of our school day, at bedtime, if Clarissa’s mood is out of control, or just because she wants to read. If she gets sent to her room, she just looks at books until I tell her she can come out.

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When she was younger, we could read the same book several times in a row for days at a time. Now we may repeat a book later in the week. But we have shifted to reading books in the same series instead of just reading the same title.

Some of our favorite series right now:

  • Fancy Nancy
    Fancy Nancy is hilarious. She is your typical six year old girl. Super girly and proper but still quite silly. Her idea of fancy is using big words. Clarissa loves her crazy adventures. I like that Clarissa learns new vocabulary. Nancy also comes from a great family so you see family dynamics including a good relationship with her little sister and she has some other great adults in her life.
  • Anything by Mo Willems
    Mo Willems is a wonderful children’s author and illustrator. He writes several series of books. We have been reading Gerald and Piggie for a few years. The pigeon books are growing on Clarissa as well lately. But her new favorite is his Knuffle Bunny series (pronounced k-nuffle in Dutch). The books are mostly written in short dialog which makes them funny but also great for new readers.

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  • Magic School Bus/ Magic School Bus Rides Again
    The original series has been around long enough that there are picture books, early readers, and chapter books to talk about many topics. So far I have only seen chapter books for the Magic School Bus Rides Again but they are well written and have a few pictures throughout the book. Clarissa doesn’t ask for these everyday like she used to. But we still read Magic School Bus at least once per week. Especially if she is in the mood to learn something or if we talk about something during our lessons and she remembers she has a book about it.
  • Zoey and Sassafrass
    In these books, a young girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafras meet some magical creatures who ring a doorbell on her scientist mother’s barn office. Each creature has a problem that needs to be solved. Zoey (sometimes with help from her mom) use the scientific method to figure out what is causing the problem and how to help the creature. There are some black and white pictures, so it is a good bridge for kids who are used to reading picture books. The story is so engaging that Clarissa often makes me read the entire book (95 pages) in one sitting!
  • Berenstain Bears
    I used to read Berenstain Bears as a kid. In fact, we still have some of my books in Clarissa’s bookshelf. I like that the stories come from a pretty conservative worldview. Clarissa likes that they are a family of bears and that Sister Bear wears pink. I also like that they have several Christian books now so she can read about Jesus, Christmas, Easter, and prayer while reading her favorite characters.
  • Skippyjon Jones
    Skippyjon Jones is a cat who thinks he is a chihuahua. He goes on crazy adventures in his closet where he goes to places like Mexico and outer space. He’s pretty crazy and his books are funny. But they don’t really have any moral lessons included in them.

Books that aren’t in a series that we read often:

  • Amazing You
    Last year, Clarissa was very interested in the human body. We have all of the Usborne books about the inside of the human body. This summer we spent some time talking about appropriate touch and private parts. She still asks to read this one often.
  • There are No Moose on This Island
    My aunt sent Clarissa this book for her birthday last year. A boy and his dad go on a trip to Maine and take a ferry to an island. The dad is very interested in his guide book and insists that there are not any moose on the island. But the boy definitely sees one. The moose and the boy spend most of the day trying to convince the dad that the moose is real. He finally sees them as they are on the ferry going back to the mainland.

This year I was introduced to Sarah Mackenzie who has curated book lists for just about everything.

Books for teaching kids about their bodies and appropriate touch

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Teaching Clarissa about her body is one of my jobs as a mom. She’s known the correct names for a while and we’ve talked about who is allowed to touch her and where. I have found a few books on the subject of body parts and appropriate touch for young children that I thought I would share.

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Amazing You! by Dr Gail Saltz, geared toward preschoolers, is currently one of Clarissa’s favorite books. She loves learning about the human body so she was very excited to learn about private parts and what their functions are. This picture book is easy to read and has illustrations that are appropriate for little kids. It says, “When a man and woman love each other and decide that they want to have a baby, a man’s sperm joins with a woman’s egg. From the egg and sperm, a baby will grow.” But that’s as detailed as it gets about reproduction in this book.

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The Story of Me and Before I was Born are the first two books in a series called “God’s Design For Sex.”

The Story of Me by Stan and Brenna Jones says that it is geared towards age 3 to 5. I think that is pretty accurate. The book talks about giving babies to married people to raise. It talks about a baby growing inside a mommy. The story introduces terms like womb, uterus, and umbilical cord. It also discusses vaginal birth, c-section, and breastfeeding in a way that little kids understand. They even introduced the idea of good touch and bad touch.

Before I was Born by Carolyn Nystrom is written for children ages 5 to 8. This book focuses on the physical differences between boys and girls. It says that God made them different and He said it was good. The book introduced the idea of sex being a gift for married couples and how a baby is made. It also discusses how a baby develops inside his mother.

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Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr by Kristen Jenson introduces the idea of pornography and talks about what you should do if you see something that you should not see. This one reads a little awkwardly out loud but led to great discussions.

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My least favorite was I Said No! A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Private Parts Private by Zack and Kimberly King. I appreciate what the book was trying to do. It was about a boy who went to a sleepover and his friend wanted to show him his private parts. Reading the words as they were written was very awkward. I found myself paraphrasing to to appease my ears. But it did bring about some great discussions between Clarissa and I.

The changing nature of Kindergarten

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Clarissa and I did a preschool curriculum together last school year. She really liked it in the beginning and then started to lose interest in April so we stopped. By May she was asking to do “real school” at home so I planned a June start to kindergarten.

I spent hours looking through all of my school supplies and the activities that I had downloaded. I tried a homeschool planning course to see if that would help me. But I think that stressed me out more because it encouraged me to plan for the entire year before I start the school year. I decided to plan unit studies since I don’t have a formal curriculum to just break down into sections. I did make an outline of what units I thought we would do this year, but I knew it could change because I wasn’t sure how much Clarissa would enjoy doing each day.

I wanted to start slow and get into a habit of doing lessons 20-30 minutes per day just four times per week. Our June Bible story was about Joseph (his coat, his brothers, and his life in Egypt). We read some of the Bible story each day and did a few crafts. We spent some time learning about our five senses, colors, shapes, and emotions. She also learned how to make a peanut butter sandwich and a peanut butter waffle. Some days Clarissa would enjoy school so much that she wanted to do more so we would do two or three days worth of lessons in one day and then she wouldn’t want to do school for a few days. The weather was so nice that we would often do school outside.

In July, we started doing more academics, adding letters and numbers to our days. We went to Japan in July so we spent some time watching videos and reading books about Japan. We also learned about the letter J; it’s sound and how to write it. I wanted to spend the month memorizing Jeremiah 29:11 instead of focusing on a Bible story, but Clarissa kept asking for Bible stories anyway so we did both. I knew that one of our next family adventures would be to the aquarium so we started studying sea animals when we returned from Japan. We learned about the letter C and Clarissa practiced writing her first name. She can already count past 10 but we focused on writing just those numbers and counting things or playing board games that require counting dice and spaces.

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By mid July, Tim thought that I was spending way too much time planning our activities. He suggested that I buy some curriculum instead of making my own in order to make the planning of school less stressful. I agreed that although I enjoy planning, I was spending too much time “trying to do it right.” I was also printing so much that we were spending plenty on ink. So I went online and ordered some kindergarten books.

In August, Clarissa learned how to make her bed. Since it was been so hot outside in Korea, her new favorite place to do school was actually on her bed. We spent two weeks reviewing a literature study on Paddington Bear that was excellent. We then went back to studying ocean animals, worked on counting and writing numbers to 20, and learned the sounds and letters P, B, F, and S. We focused on Bible stories about fish; Jonah, Jesus calms the storm, and feeding the 5,000. For her birthday we went to an aquarium in Seoul and she really enjoyed looking at all of the animals and feeding the fish. At the aquarium, Clarissa and Tim got really excited about the kits to grow triops and angel fairy shrimp, so we have a few new pets at our house. We learned about life cycles too.

September was less stressful. The weather was cooler so we read and explored outside again. I also have a reading curriculum, math workbooks, and some unit studies that we both enjoy so I don’t have to do as much prep. We also read a lot of books. When we studied Noah’s Ark we spent a couple of weeks reading about animals. After a walk last weekend, she is all about bugs. I am so thankful for the library these days! Clarissa is also enjoying attending AWANA, a Korean class, and gymnastics one hour each per week to round out our lessons.

What Clarissa has been teaching me about seeds

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I think it’s easy to get frustrated with the people around me. Especially when I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time pouring myself into something for someone else and I don’t see much progress. Whether it’s helping a friend or trying to convince my five year old to eat an actual fruit or vegetable instead of a fruit squeeze and seaweed.

A few weeks ago, Tim and I were discussing Clarissa’s behavior. I said that I thought she would obey better when she was saved and actively following Jesus. Tim said, “I thought you said she was saved.” “Well, she says she believes in Jesus but I’m not really sure she understands sin and her need for a Savior.” Cue some interesting conversations with Clarissa that included, “So at gymnastics today one of my friends asked me what I was going to be for Halloween and I told her nothing. We love God.” I stand corrected.

Sometimes getting to church is such a battle on a Sunday morning and Clarissa says she doesn’t want to go. So then we finally get there, late as usual, and I get her all set up with her notebook to draw during worship time. Sometimes during the music time, she will tap me so I can look at her drawings. Sometimes they are polar bears hunting in Antarctica. But this week was different.

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The first time she tapped me wanted me to see the Earth with all of the islands and that Jesus was in the clouds. The second time, she had added hearts and said that all of the islands love Jesus. At the end, she said, “This is me. I love Jesus. Can you please write at the top of the page: I am happy that Jesus exists.” What?! Little Miss “I don’t want to go to church” is having a real moment with God.

So I just wanted to encourage my reader. You never know what God is going to do with the seeds that you plant. It’s easy to get frustrated when you feel like what you are saying or doing isn’t going anywhere. But I was reminded this week that it’s not my job to make fruit happen.

“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3:6-9

It’s my job to plant the seeds. It’s just my job to be obedient to do the things He tells me. God is going to do what God is going to do with those seeds. So keep plugging along with your kids, neighbors, and co-workers. We may not see the fruit of what we’re doing now. But God does have a plan for it.

How can you be 5 years old already?

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It’s funny because when I was pregnant, nine months felt like forever. But once Clarissa was born, time seemed to speed up. Maybe that is slightly exaggerated. The first two months where she didn’t know the difference between night and day dragged a bit too. But once I was getting five hour stretches of sleep at night and started enjoying my daughter, I could enjoy the moment better. I cannot believe that Clarissa is five years old. It does not seem like it has actually been five YEARS since we met her.

Clarissa has been asking me to teach her to read on and off since she was three. I really wanted her to have fun and play so while we did do some preschool this year, we didn’t do a lot of academics each day. She started to want more in the spring so we officially started kindergarten in June. She still loves me to read to her and will “read” to herself for a while too. She is starting to enjoy tracing/writing letters more. Her favorite is probably math though. She enjoys counting and puzzles. She actually enjoys homeschooling so much that when people ask her about starting kindergarten in the fall she says something like, “I am homeschooled FOREVER. Mommy teaches me at home and I will NEVER go to real school.” She gets really upset if we ask her if she wants to go to school.

Clarissa enjoys going to Sunday school. She has learned a few Bible verses and reminds me to read a Bible story during school each day. She said she wants to try AWANA this year and is very much looking forward to gymnastics starting again in September. Today she told me that she has “been waiting a long time for that!”

I think Clarissa is an introvert. She enjoys being with a small group that she knows. If we go somewhere loud or with a large group of kids she asks to leave very quickly. She is sensitive to loud noise in general. She always hides in her room and closes the door when I vacuum and won’t see movies in the theater anymore because it is too loud.

As usual, Clarissa is very verbal and wants to tell you her opinion about EVERYTHING. She is not very gracious if you have a different opinion so we are working on that. She also has a very vivid imagination so she tells great stories. She has also started saving her screen time for when daddy is home in the evening so that she can watch him play video games or watch a show together.

Clarissa wants a baby sister so badly. Actually she wants two sisters but if one of them a brother, it’s okay. For her birthday, she requested a bunk bed so that she can “share a room with her sister.”

She seems to have really matured lately. She no longer requires the stroller to walk to post or for a day of exploring. Clarissa gave away her My Little Pony toys and wants to play with her baby doll. She is always the mom. She plays dress up often as well and wants to pretend to be her favorite characters on TV. Her current favorite is Eva from Wakfu so she can often be found wearing boots inside the house and carrying around her bow and arrow. She also enjoys playing outside and making crafts. I think she would live at the pool or beach if I let her.

Some of my favorite Clarissa sayings right now:

  • I prefer dogs (poor Mittens. Though they still have many tender moments)
  • It’s not my stuffed animal, it’s my pet
  • Our family is not alone in this car… I see a bug in here!
  • Constructions (instructions)
  • Frusterated (frustrated)
  • Figerate (I need to figure it out)
  • I trickstered you!
  • Interdasting (interesting)
  • Inzausting (exhausting)
  • Great Wall of Korea
  • Throft store (thrift store)
  • I am writing kid letters (when she just scribbles instead of writing English letters)

Summer School Days

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Clarissa has been asking me to teach her to read off and on since before she was potty trained. She constantly asked to start kindergarten this spring so I spent May planning what I wanted our year together to look like.

In June, we officially started kindergarten. I knew that I wanted to start slow so I planned for 20-30 minutes of lessons, four days per week. Some days were like binge days for her and she would do two or three days worth in one sitting because she didn’t want to stop. So my July plans had more to do each day.

Omi sent us a scavenger hunt from a magazine. We decided that we wanted to do it across the street at Nonseong Park. Clarissa and I thought it would be fun to do school outside as well so we packed our school books, some crayons, and a clipboard in my backpack. On the way out the door, Clarissa decided to ride her bike and also bring the kite.

Clarissa rode her bike across the street and then we climbed the hill to fly the kite. As I set my bookbag down, Clarissa already had her kite in the air. This was only her second time flying a kite, but she did extremely well.

When we needed a water break, we headed to the pavilion on the hill to do our Bible time.

Then we did our scavenger hunt. Clarissa had a great time finding the items on the list like a crooked stick, a bug that crawls, something that smells good, and something that feels rough. The only thing we didn’t find was an acorn. But we found a pinecone instead.

We reviewed our five senses to talk about what we did on our scavenger hunt and drew pictures.

We took another break to play on the Korean exercise equipment and then headed back to the pavilion to read our books for the day.

Then we headed back up the hill for more kite flying fun. She went on the very top and said she was walking on the Hwaseong Fortress.

When we had enough we headed home by bike. Our “school day” took about two hours with all the breaks but we both really enjoyed it.

Other days, we brought our schoolwork to one of the playgrounds in our apartment complex. We would bring our books and schoolwork outside and she would do an activity or two, go play, and come back to complete another activity.

We have also been on a lot of field trips this summer. We learned about animals at the National Institute of Ecology, fed fish at the aquarium in Seoul, hiked the Hwaseong Fortress wall, touched bugs at the Asan Insect Museum, saw animals at the Ueno Zoo, and learned about Japan before our trip to Tokyo.

Because our school days were short, we had plenty of time to go swimming or play with friends. I think this was one of our favorite summers together. I wonder what school should look like for fall?

God’s Girl Says Yes

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Wynter Pitts wrote a book with her husband last year about praying for your daughter called She is Yours. I loved it. She also has a new podcast that I have been listening to. So when the opportunity presented itself to be on her book launch team for her latest book, God’s Girl Says Yes, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Her last book was for parents, but this one is for girls. There are not any pictures so it will probably be a few years before Clarissa is ready to read it, but I look forward to reading this book with her one day. Wynter also has a magazine for girls that looks great!

Each of the 16 chapters in God’s Girl Says Yes has a specific message for your girl with scriptures, a prayer, and personal stories about either Wynter or a girl in elementary school. I think these stories will really help to build Clarissa’s faith and to show her that you do not have to wait until you are a grown up to do big things for God. She goes through the fruit of the spirit as a whole passage of scripture and then breaks up each individual fruit into its own chapter.

The book is very relatable. It sounds like a conversation between friends. There are several places to answer questions that will really make your girl think. Some of my favorite thoughts from the book:

  • “The Israelites’ story shows us how difficult it is to make good choices all the time. Sometimes saying yes day after day can be really hard…God loves His people and wants His people to choose Him. He entered into a relationship with Israel on purpose. He knew what was best for them, and He knows what is best for you.”
  • “As you say yes to the things God asks you to say yes to, you will have to say no to other things – to things that are unhelpful and that He doesn’t want for you. When you say yes to God and walk with Him on the path He has chosen for you, amazing things can happen. “
  • She does a good job of explaining why we have rules and learning self control.
  • “God gave us more than rules-He also gave us a relationship with him… Our life is not about rules. It’s actually about being free to live an amazing adventure with God.”
  • Chapter 15 was probably my favorite. She talks about trusting God to have a plan for your life and using your gifts and talents for him.

I really enjoyed this book. I look forward to reading it again with Clarissa soon.

Clarissa 4.5

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Clarissa is growing up so fast. I can’t believe she will be four and a half years old on Tuesday. It seems like every day she says or does something that surprises me. She is also starting to look tall to me (until we leave the house and stands next to one of her actually tall friends).

Clarissa has always enjoyed reading. She sometimes still stays up with a reading lamp at bedtime. What has changed is that she tries to learn from her books now or act them out. For example, we recently read a book about a girl who turned her bedroom into her own country. Immediately after we read this book, Clarissa decided to turn her room into “Clarissavania,” complete with a flag, rules, money, and national treasures.

She and Mittens really do act like sisters. They love each other one minute and annoy each other the next. Clarissa often likes to pick out treats or presents for Mittens at the PX and Mittens sleeps in Clarissa’s bed every night.

Clarissa likes to dress herself. She is getting quite girly and prefers skirts to pants. She often pretends to be one of the Equestria Girls. She also prefers to wear boots instead of sneakers. She sometimes pretends to be an Equestria Girl and give me a concert.

I thought that she had given up on Legos in favor of Barbies. But in the past few weeks has been more interested in building Lego cities. She also plays a game she calls “umbrella party.” This basically entails bringing the big umbrella into the living room and putting a bunch of toys next to it to play there. Her favorite game to play is called “family.” Sometimes she is the mom and puts a baby doll in her shirt and in a few minutes pulls it out and says, “look I had my baby!” and proceeds to take care of it. The baby needs to be nursed, have a diaper change, and put in her crib. Other times, the doll is her baby sister and she tells me to nurse it, but she does everything else.

She jumps on her trampoline every day. The trampoline also serves as a stage for a concert. Clarissa and I also like to play Just Dance together on the Wii. This week she has started to get very silly with it. Half the time, instead of dancing with me she just does something silly into the camera because she wants to see the playback.

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Clarissa is finally starting to eat more foods. She will eat chicken and scrambled eggs consistently and will even occasionally eat part of a bison burger. She will randomly eat fruit like apples, strawberries, and grapes. She will eat any flavor of fruit squeeze though. Vegetables are still pretty elusive unless you count seaweed.

Her favorite movie right now is Home Alone. She thinks the bad guys getting beat up is hilarious.

Clarissa still enjoys doing school with me. When she was younger, I thought she was going to be left handed. At this point, I think she is ambidextrous. She will use both hands when she draws or writes letters. Clarissa has really enjoyed coloring with markers lately.

Clarissa still prefers play dates with one child at a time but is getting more comfortable with larger groups, especially at church where it is the same group each week.

I always like to write down her new sayings so I will remember the funny things she says:

More upper or downer (go up or down)

Figerate (figure something out)

Comforter (comfortable)

Clo (clothes)

Insterding (interesting)

Skewel (school)

Fabulous!

I’ll show ya

What the heck?!

Constructions (instructions)

The next time you and Daddy go on a date, I don’t need a babysitter. God will protect me.

Mommy come with me. I’m getting lonely (if she needs to go to the bathroom).

She and Tim also spent a month or two of regular arguments at the dinner table about whether or not there should be a baby in my tummy. She has recently given up on that and has started to say, “we need to move to America so we can adopt my sister.” The other reason she wants to move to America immediately is so that we will be a two car family. Apparently she is tired of walking with Mommy during the week…

What we do for preschool (part 2)

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Since we have moved to Korea, I have paid more attention to when my friends get to go to conferences and conventions. I didn’t do a lot of that when we lived in Norfolk. Probably because I was either working or Clarissa was really young. But I have also discovered online conferences and conventions. Many of them are free!

In May, I spent most of the month listening to speakers from The Online Homeschool Convention while I was making dinner or doing dishes. It was pretty cool to be able to pick and choose what I wanted to listen to. And to be able to turn something off in the middle if I wasn’t really feeling it.

One thing that really resonated with me was just letting kids play when they were small. Let them learn by doing. Make learning fun. You don’t want to ruin school for them when they are small because once you lose your love of learning, it is hard to get it back.

I bought a curriculum to work on with Clarissa when she was four and for a few days, I really struggled with if I was going to do it or not. But she kept asking for school. We started God’s Little Explorers in July. The curriculum has lessons for four days per week. There is a big Bible story, theme, and letter each week. By starting in July, it gives us two weeks to do each theme so we can really take our time and have plenty of time for play.

The first week set a fun foundation to work from. We learned about the letter X. I hid all of our school supplies and put a sticky note with the letter X nearby so she could find them. She had a great time!

Clarissa has been very excited about our Bible stories. She likes that we read them multiple times and from different Bibles (The Jesus Storybook Bible and the Beginner’s Bible). She also likes that there is a theme to the books I get from the library each week. For example, when we learned about the Creation Story, our letter was G for garden so we read books about plants. There is also usually a shape to focus on and some crafts. The part Clarissa is not excited about is writing. She wrote big G just fine, but “didn’t like little g. Can I write s?” When we were talking about A for Adam and Eve, she wanted to do the letter C.

I have decided that I’m not going to push the writing at this point. She just turned four. She doesn’t have to be able to write the alphabet in order to read. So we’re just going to keep going with our curriculum since she likes most of it (and I really like it too). When she wants to write, we will. When we learned about Noah, I was able to get her to do some “rainbow letters” for C. Sometimes she will also trace words if I draw a picture first on the dry erase board.

Another component to this curriculum is learning to help around the house. Clarissa has been pretty good about bringing her dishes to the sink and putting her dirty clothes in the hamper. Since starting this curriculum she has started cutting bananas and cheese, making peanut butter sandwiches, and peeling carrots. She also wants to decorate her own pizza. I recently made a chore chart for Clarissa. She likes moving the magnets when she finishes her chore. She has actually complied with the, “you have to do these chores before you can ___” part also.

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Clarissa gets really excited to do school after dinner. Probably because she walks by where I keep all of her school stuff. So she will just pick out an activity to do. We have several dry erase books to work on letters or numbers. She has matching cards for opposites. We recently learned to play “go fish.”

Another thing I bought for her was a peel and stick dry erase world map from the px. When we read a book or watch something on tv where they talk about another place, we will walk over to the map and look for it. Sometimes the map gets pretty messy with drawings of penguins on Antarctica, Nemo near Australia, or pyramids in Egypt. And sometimes she just scribbles over it. But that’s the beauty of dry erase. And while she’s scribbling, she’s building her hand muscles so she’ll want to write more, in theory anyway…

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They offer both gymnastics and ballet on post, so I was planning to let her pick which one she wanted to do. For most of the summer, ballet was the frontrunner so she could wear her tutu. When it was time to sign up, she changed her mind. She said she wants to take classes when she’s 5. So we’ll wait on that for now. The beauty of military life is that you can register at any point during the year so we don’t have to wait until next fall if she decides she wants to take classes earlier. I did however register her for AWANA. She loves Vacation Bible School so I think she will like AWANA as well.

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you order God’s Little Explorers through this post, I will make a small commission. However, it does not add to your cost.

What we do for preschool (part 1)

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With everyone sharing pictures of the first day of school/preschool the past few weeks, I thought I would share what Clarissa has been doing for preschool.

Clarissa has an August birthday so she will always be one of the youngest in her class. For most of age three, she rarely woke up before 8 AM. Add to that, that I get to be a stay at home mom while we live in Korea. We decided to keep her home for preschool.

At three years old, I feel like it is really important that Clarissa gets to play and be creative. I bought some Usborne sticker books , wipe away books, and flap books to teach colors, shapes, letters, and numbers. We worked on them whenever she asked for “her school books.”

We read a lot of books! She likes to “read” me the stories too. At first, it was the stories that we had read a thousand times so she almost had them memorized anyway. But now she will pick up a book that we have never read before, look at the pictures, and tell me the story. Sometimes she even reads “in her head.” She often asks to go to the library.

Clarissa has a lot of toys that inspire imagination. We inherited a doll house and a play kitchen last year. She also loves to play with legos. She also helped me a lot in the kitchen with counting tablespoons or mixing things in the bowl. Cookie cutters and sprinkles are probably her favorite part of cooking though. For the first half of three she really liked to paint and play with play doh. Then she moved on to making pictures with stickers or by cutting and glueing.

Clarissa loves to go on vacation and to museums. We make sure to hit up the children’s museum and an aquarium or zoo every place we go. Science museums seem to be hit or miss, depending on if there is enough English for us to explain the science to her. But she loves to watch or read Magic School Bus.

At the end of the day, I want her to enjoy learning. She recognizes her letters and numbers to 12. She actually understands what it means to have six bears. I think social development is also a big deal in preschool. Clarissa has  playdates regularly so she is learning to share and play with others. She can follow simple directions.

I did buy a more formal curriculum to do with her while she is four. But even then, I plan to be pretty relaxed and take our time with it.

My four year old thinks she’s a super hero

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It was hard to type that. My four year old. It is hard to believe that Clarissa is 4 years old today. Life has changed so much in four years!

Clarissa is growing into this wonderful little girl. She can be pleasant, kind, and helpful. But at the same time, she is very determined. Let’s just say she’s in the right house because she certainly knows what she wants and is not afraid to voice her opinion. For example, recently she wanted to wear a tutu to the market.

I am learning to enjoy ALL of her and not just the things that make my job easier.

Clarissa is so smart. She can recognize her letters and numbers. We started a preschool curriculum together in July. She enjoys the Bible stories and crafts. She likes the themes for the books and activities. However, she is not very interested in writing or finding letters at this time. When we studied creation, we were working on the letter G. Capital G was just fine but she “didn’t like little g! Can’t we do s?” When we were supposed to do A for studying Adam and Eve, she was adamant that she wanted to do C that week. I think we will continue our stories and crafts and I will just ask her what letter she wants to work on that day.

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Clarissa is also kind of obsessed with The Magic School Bus. She watches the shows on Netflix daily. We have a new book from the library pretty much every time we go. Her favorite book is probably The Magic School Bus Inside the Human Body. We have spent several afternoons drawing the inside of the human body. One time she skinned her knee and wanted to know where the platelets were to stop her from bleeding. Any time she sees a red circle, she asks if it is a red blood cell.

Wild Kratts is another favorite. We watch the show and there are a few books at the library. She has a pretty good understanding of the difference between predator and prey.

She still prefers being “make – id” (naked) so there are markedly less photos to show the grandparents. About once a month she will request an Elsa braid for her hair. The rest of the month, I am expressly forbidden to touch her hair.

Clarissa thinks she is very strong. And fast. And that she has powers. Like a super hero. She doesn’t worry about being smashed by a car because “I can put my hand out and stop it.”

She is a ballerina. Ballerinas only wear pink shoes (which is why Grammy had to send some for her birthday).

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Her favorite color is all of them. She has worn the same dress to church six weeks in a row because it has all of her favorite colors on it (red, yellow, teal, and pink).

She often wears rain boots. Even when it is not raining. And she likes to wear dresses and skirts more than shorts. Nail polish is constant. Last week when she was picking out her dress, she wanted to wear some of my jewelry too.

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Clarissa can tell me Bible stories. Sometimes she prays or asks me things about God. She plays with her “Jesus toys” (nativity set and resurrection eggs). But she tells me often that she doesn’t like Jesus. But Vacation Bible School was fun and she wants to go back tomorrow. Before she was born God told me that she would be a little girl with great faith. She still has a few years left of little girldom so I am waiting to see how this plays out.

She probably eats the same handful of foods I posted on her second birthday. But I have given up on being frustrated with that. She takes a multivitamin daily and eats fruit squeezes like they’re going out of style. She eats pepperoni, cheese, or peanut butter daily. So I feel like her diet is well rounded enough. Maybe one day she will eat what we eat for dinner without saying “yuck” and making faces.

Clarissa loves the water and takes at least one bath per day. Most days bathtime is at least 30 minutes long and several days per week she takes more than one bath in a day, just to play in the water.

Clarissa is also very creative. She loves to read books, both with me and by herself. She loves looking at the pictures to make up a story. Lego building happens every day in our house. Stuffed animals are real pets with names and “speak English but Mittens just speaks cat.” She also enjoys painting.

She says some pretty funny things:

She wants to do /not do things “because I do/don’t” (that’s why she likes things too)

If she’s tired while riding her bike she needs to “refuel” (drink water or have a fruit squeeze)

 

She will say something rediculous or made up and when you look at her she will say, “that’s how you say… in Spanish.”

She will ask if someone is Korean or an Englisher

It’s been ten minutes. 12345678910!

That’s “indoorable!” (adorable)

Okay okay okay

I get it!

I’ll help you

Rests for like 30 seconds “okay. Now I have enough enzergy (energy) to walk”

Where’s my bug looking thing? (magnifying glass)

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I’m figurating (thinking. Trying to figure something out)

Sun scream (sun tan lotion)

Fly swapper (fly swatter)

Back pag (she can’t commit to either bookbag or backpack)

I’m excusing (just kidding)

What island does… live on?

It’s so beautiful

Wonderful

I am reading in my head

Mommy. Daddy. Talk in your head! (when she is tired and doesn’t want to hear us talk in the car or living room)

Seriously?!

I’m curious

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Clarissa 3.5

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It is hard to believe that Clarissa is three and a half years old. We have lived in Daegu for two years so she has lived in Korea longer than she has lived in the USA. 

I think it is safe to say that Clarissa is potty trained now. It took almost a full year of trying. But once she decided she wanted to wear panties, it wasn’t that long. 

Clarissa still really enjoys reading. She will ask me to read to her. But she really enjoys “reading” to herself. She does a pretty good job of making up a story to match the pictures. At one point she consistently asked me to teach her how to read for real. But once she realized that it would take a while, she stopped asking. Part of her bedtime routine now includes reading to herself with a lamp for 10 minutes. She almost always is “in the middle” of a book when the timer goes off and has to finish before she turns out her light. 

She is no longer obsessed with going to California. She has graduated to Hawaii since our vacation. 

If you ask her why she likes anything the response is usually “because it’s so beautiful!” 

Clarissa keeps asking for her sister. She doesn’t want a baby. What she really wants is a roommate. She never wants me to leave her room at night. She gets lonely. Mittens always sleeps in her room but she “doesn’t speak human.” 

Her imagination has grown by leaps and bounds lately. She always has some elaborate story about her husband or her baby or fighting the bad guys. Lately, her husband is a dragon and her baby is a wolf pup. 

During the fall, Clarissa kept asking when she was going to be a mom and have a baby. I told her that when she was a grown up, she would get married, and then she and her husband could ask God for a baby. Apparently, she was listening. Now that she plays with baby dolls all the time and calls them her babies, she talks about her husband. At first, it was one boy in particular. But now any little boy will do. When I picked her up from the nursery last week she asked where her husband went. When I asked her who it was, she looked around, pointed at a little boy, and said, “that one!” Tim is thrilled…it is cute to watch them argue about this topic. 

Clarissa often cooks for me as well. Legos are still used several days per week. She is starting to draw more but isn’t as interested in messy art like painting or play doh. She also likes to trace letters and numbers. She is getting pretty good. 

She has a different name each day. If you call her the wrong name she gets upset. 

I think Clarissa is an introvert. She is fine in small groups and often wants to see her friends or go exploring. But if the number gets much higher than 5 or 6, she stays really close to me and stays quiet. She may warm up eventually, but it takes a while. 

Other common things Clarissa says:

Fridge – e-rater (refrigerator) 

I am bad sometimes 

But it hurts my feelings! (whenever you say no to something she wants) 

I am brave! 

My nose isn’t right! (if she has a runny nose) 

My hand is freaking out (if she is scared and her hand shakes) 

I like Jesus. He heals people. 

I need food 

Potty Training Part 2

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Elsa has been dethroned. In our house anyway. Make way for Moana!

I much prefer Moana to Frozen from a parenting standpoint. Moana’s dad isn’t thrilled that she loves the ocean. He tries to tell her it’s dangerous. But he never makes her feel like she is weird or dangerous and he certainly does not try to tell her her gifts/abilities are bad or try to change her. Plus her grandmother keeps encouraging her to be who she really is. I rather enjoy the soundtrack as well.

The movie reminds me of one of my favorite books Discover Your Kid’s Spiritual Gifts. I need to read it again to see what gifts I think Clarissa is showing at this point in her life.

I thought I was going to “give up” on potty training for a while several times this fall/winter. But each time I was ready for a break, Clarissa would demand panties in the apartment. She had not been successful outside of the house, so I was planning to stick to pull ups and diapers for our trip to Hawaii.But I packed a few pairs of panties just in case she decided she wanted to wear them.

Thursday morning she saw some panties in the drawer and said, “I want to wear little Eva’s panties!” We received some hand me downs from a friend before they moved last month. It was the first time that Clarissa actually asked to wear panties outside of the house. She was very adamant that she wanted to wear panties instead of diapers that day. She even peed in the potty before we left. She lasted a few hours before having an accident. But she was still pretty excited about panties.

Last week, she wanted to wear panties to PWOC and she successfully kept them dry the entire time we were out of the house (about 8 hours). The next day she told me, “I don’t want to be a big girl today. I’m wearing diapers.”

This week, she has successfully peed in the potty outside of the apartment for three days in a row. Pooping is another story. But I am happy to have met this milestone.

Clarissa says the funniest things

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This kid.

Clarissa is so smart. It is fun to see how her logic develops now that she can explain what she is thinking .

Every day she says things that crack me up.  I don’t want to forget any of it .  While there are “threenager”  moments of pure drama,  I am so glad to be this little girl’s mama.

Some of my favorite Clarissa conversations as of late:

If she doesn’t want to do something she cries or says she can’t do something.  If you ask her why she usually says “because . . . is not my favorite.”

She loves her tricycle.  She wants to bring it outside,  to bathtime,  to bed.  But she is very adamant that it is her “bicycle” and not a tricycle.

She will often ask “is . . .  in this life?” which basically means, “is this real?”  think dinosaurs and things on TV

Clarissa loves “school.”  I have a few things that I am working on at home with her and she calls it her “school books.” I have them in a special place.  But I also have a huge rubbermaid of teacher things that she calls “your school books.”  She can be very adamant that we do my school books as opposed to hers.  So I have had to put the things I want to do with her with my teacher things so she thinks they are “my school books.”

She also says “that’s a tastic idea!” or “that’s NOT a tastic idea”  (fantastic idea)

Clarissa has been able to count to ten for a while.  Now she kind of understands the concept of what the numbers mean,  so her favorite number is 10.  Instead of asking for one more minute or for one of something ,  she now requests demands 10! Ten Cheetos, ten shows, ten new toys . . .

When she counts, she says “one, two, free, I’m free, four, five, six, seben, eight, nine, ten!”

If she does something wrong and I ask her why she did something,  she will respond with “because I did.” She also wants something “because I do.”

She usually has something specific in mind when she asks a question .  For example ,  last week as we were preparing for a family walk she asked me about this sign on the elevator:

The conversation went something like this . 

Clarissa: what does that sign say? 

Me: don’t lean on the elevator 

Clarissa: no it doesn’t 

Me: read the sign in Korean 

Clarissa: no it says don’t smash your boobs! 

She is also pretty obsessed with going to California.  She will sit in her car seat and “fly”  to California.  She climbs on the bench outside and says “all aboard!” to ride the train to California.  All of the neighbor kids are excited about going to California too,  they just don’t know why.  (Dory is from the Jewel of Morro Bay,  California.  So if she goes to California,  she will get to see Dory and Nemo) 

Potty Training part 1

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When we first moved to Korea,  Clarissa was 18 months old and seemed obsessed with watching Tim and I use the bathroom.  I thought she was young but decided to buy a princess potty anyway to see what would happen.

Within a few days she peed and pooped in the potty.  Quite pleased with herself,  she was done and lost interest in the potty for about 9 months.

Then her best friend turned three and started potty training.  Clarissa asked to start potty training but I told her we would wait a few weeks because we were going to Japan for Christmas.  That was a mistake because by the time we returned,  she had completely lost interest.

One of the few times per year I take time to read entire books is when we travel.  I read a few books about potty training on our Japan trip and also on our trip to Seoul.  Most claimed that you can completely potty train your child in 3-5 days.  They lied…

I thought we would try potty training over spring break because we would be home the whole week,  but she really wasn’t interested,  so we stopped.

I was in charge of vacation bible school this summer and the rule has always been that you need to be three years old and potty trained to attend vbs.  She was two weeks shy of 3 for vbs,  but I thought that if we started in June,  that would give us enough time to potty train.  She was pretty good about not having an accident if I made sure she sat on the potty at least once per hour.  It wasn’t until we were both sick and stayed home for an entire week in mid July that she started realizing when she needed to use the potty on her own.

But then we spent two weeks out of the house every day for vbs.  If she is in a diaper,  she will use it.  Smart girl.

August was fairly consistent.  If we were at home,  she would use the potty when she needed to.  But once you put panties or a diaper on her,  she refused the potty.  So that meant that we were potty trained in the apartment only.

We went on vacation to Japan in September.  I figured she would just stick to her diapers.  For the most part she did.  But once per day she would use the potty.  It was always at an interesting time.  I don’t think she used a hotel potty the entire trip (though now that I think about it,  the bidets probably scared her).  She often used the toilet on a moving train.  If it happened to be a squatty,  I just said no.

The rest of September,  she mostly asked for a diaper.  Some mornings,  she wakes up with a dry diaper.  But now we are back to being potty trained in the apartment without panties. She sometimes asks for a diaper when she needs to poop.

I still use cloth diapers when we leave the apartment.  I figure that she will be potty trained when she wants to as she sometimes asks to use the potty when we are out.  It is not worth stressing her out over using the potty. Especially when it doesn’t really add to our budget anyway.

Turning 3 in style 

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I gave Clarissa some ideas for how to celebrate her birthday.  She said she wanted ALL of her friends,  pizza,  cupcakes, and the color playground. Done.

Most of Clarissa’s friends in our building go to Korean preschool.  Their summer break was the week before Clarissa’s birthday so we decided to celebrate early.

Clarissa helped me make cupcakes the day before her party.  I put them inside my cupcake carrier but didn’t think to put them in the refrigerator.  Our apartment is so warm and humid that the frosting melted overnight.  I don’t have a great track record with her birthday cupcakes

The temperature was supposed to hit 103 during the party,  so I tried unsuccessfully  to find water balloons. But our friends had a small pool so we decided to do that on the playground.

The kids had a great time playing in the water and eating their pizza and cupcakes.

My favorite part of the party was when it was time for Clarissa to open her presents.  Each of her friends was so excited to give her a gift that Clarissa didn’t actually open any of them herself. Each of her friends opened the presents that he or she  brought and shoved them in her face saying “look what I got you!”  I wish I had pictures from that moment.

As her actual birthday approached,  I was also excited about another activity I have been planning.  Compassion International has a few programs that I really like that help families.  They have a child survival program that helps moms and babies receive nutritional assistance, prenatal care, childhood immunizations, and mentoring from a local church. Once a child is about three years old he is eligible to become a sponsored child.

I have been waiting until Clarissa turns three so she could pick a child about her age to sponsor. Then they can kind of grow up together through letters and prayers. I thought for sure that Clarissa would want a little girl. But I was wrong. She was ADAMANT that she wanted a boy (though I’m not entirely convinced she understood that this little boy would not be coming over to play with her). She ended up choosing a little boy from Colombia who was born on the same day as her. We pray for this little boy often before bed. I actually pray for his mother almost every day as well. Whenever Clarissa’s behavior is challenging, I pray for his mother too because I figure that she is going through the exact same thing with her little boy.

Clarissa’s actual birthday was on a Saturday so Tim was already off. I spent the morning running errands on post and then when I came home we had some cupcakes. I was planning to wait until we came home from our family celebration. But, I showed them to Tim while she was having a tea party in the bathtub and insisted “but mom it’s my birthday now!”

We then went to the bowling alley for pizza and a game of bowling. We have actually been bowling three times in the past two months because she enjoys it so much. We only play one game each time due to her attention span though. It is pretty fun. We always have bumpers up and she has a ramp for her ball to roll off of towards the pins.

After bowling we headed to the PX. Clarissa read the most books in her age group during the summer reading program on post. Her prize was a $25 gift card to the PX. She chose a Frozen jewelry making kit and some Elsa panties.

My baby girl is 3! 

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Time seems to go  much faster as an adult than I remember growing up.  Clarissa is three years old.  She has lived exactly half of her life in America and half of her life in South Korea.

Life with Clarissa is a fun adventure.  She definitely keeps me on my toes!

Her three year old check up is on Friday,  so I don’t know all of her statistics yet.  But she has definitely grown this year.  Clarissa is quick to say,  “I am growing up.  I am getting heavy.”  Last year,  she wanted to walk everywhere.  This year she prefers to be carried. I enjoy a good cuddle,  but when it’s 95 degrees everyday,  mommy gets tired quickly.  I have recently started to bring the umbrella stroller everywhere we go.  It’s not as bad on the bus as I thought it would be and my walks to our destination have become so much easier.  I don’t know why I waited a year and a half to try this?!

Clarissa’s favorite activity is probably reading. She read the most books in her age group this summer at the library. Her prize was a $25 gift card to the px, which she spent on a Frozen jewelry making kit and some Elsa panties.

She asks me to read to her multiple times per day.  Clarissa also likes to “read”  to herself.  She is very good at narrating what is happening in the pictures.  Plus she has half of the stories memorized anyway. 

She even asks me to read in the indoor playroom of our apartment building.  Most of the books are in Korean so I have become quite skilled at making up stories. 

She also just got a Frozen tea set for her birthday and asks to play in the bathtub several times per day so that she can have “real tea.”

This week she learned to blow bubbles correctly. Before, she kind of ate them.

Her menu is still not very large, but this week has started to eat a larger quantity of food per day. She will pretty much eat pizza, ice cream, and chocolate any time they are offered. She will sometimes eat french fries (with ketchup), breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs, popsicles, pretzels, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, yogurt covered raisins,  dates,  apples, and bananas. Everyday she will eat a peanut butter sandwich, mozarella cheese, and a fruit bar or seaweed snack. She mostly drinks soymilk and water, but will request gatorade on a hot day.

Clarissa is brilliant. We named her well (Clarissa means brilliant). She is also quite determined. Which works both ways. If she wants to do something, she will do everything she can to make it happen. And if she doesn’t, well, it probably isn’t going to happen. Thus, I started potty training in April and she still isn’t fully potty trained. She is daytime potty trained at home. Has been for about a month. But once you leave the house, she doesn’t care anymore. Usually. Sometimes she will ask to sit on the potty while we are out. But it’s rare.

During the month of July, she demanded to be called Elsa and sometimes would not respond unless you called her Elsa. Tim refused and so he would come home and she would cry hysterically and say, “Mommy, Daddy says I’m not Elsa. I’m Clarissa.”

She does know her colors and shapes. She can recognize her letters pretty consistently. She can count from 1-10 and recognize those numbers as well. I overheard her singing the alphabet song today. Clarissa really enjoys singing.  She randomly bursts into songs that she makes up. 

I am really glad that I wrote about her interests a few months ago, because they have changed so much this summer. Her favorite movie is either Finding Nemo or Lion King. She watches Doc McStuffins, Robocar Poli, and Sofia the First on tv.

My Favorite Clarissa-isms

“one more minute”

“I’m growing up. I’m getting heavy” (or Mittens is growing up, or ___ is growing up)

“It doesn’t feel me good” (if she doesn’t like something or if she doesn’t feel good after eating/doing something)

“I want a dead sandwich” (plain bread)

She has a hard time pronouncing the letter l, so most things sound like y. yike (like), yegs (legs)

“my yegs (legs)  don’t work really well” (when she’s tired)

She uses the words because and yike (like) A LOT

Most days she will say “I don’t feel good. I have gunk.” Pretty sure she has inherited our allergies, poor thing.

She says ” loft cloth”  for washcloth 

If I ask her why she did something,  her response is usually” because I did”

We read a few books about opposites and she is confused.  She often says “it’s too easy”  when something is difficult 

She randomly adds “uh”  to the middle of the word so it’s “sam-uh-wich”  and “hung-uh-ry” 

she still says “hold ou me” when she wants me to carry her and I don’t have the heart to correct her. Because, she recently started to say “orange” correctly and I’m devastated. I loved how she said “ornange”

I am so thankful for our beautiful baby girl. I am so glad that I get to stay home with her during this season of life.

Update : Clarissa is 89.6 cm (35.3 inches)  tall and weighs 12.7kg (28 pounds). So she has grown a little over three inches and gained almost 5 pounds this year. 

Clarissa’s first movie theater experience 

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Last summer and fall,  Clarissa was obsessed with the movie Finding Nemo.  There were two copies at the library.  So most weeks at storytime we would return our copy and borrow the other one. She received the DVD as a gift for Christmas so that we didn’t need to borrow it anymore. 

When we heard that Finding Dory was coming out,  we knew she had to see it.  We thought that at almost three years old,  she would be able to sit through the movie in the theater and actually enjoy it. 

The movie was supposed to come out in June.  Tim had a four day weekend for the Fourth of July so we thought that Friday would be perfect because it wouldn’t be as crowded. All week I talked up the movie.  Tim brought home the book from TDY (business trip).  We talked about how the movie would be on the big screen and we would have to sit and be quiet but we would get to eat popcorn. 

Thursday night after I put her to bed,  I went online to look at movie times and was surprised to discover that the movie would not be out in Korea for another week. We were so upset. 

The next morning,  Clarissa woke up ready for her movie and I had to tell her that I made a mistake and we actually couldn’t go to the movie until next week. She was surprisingly satisfied with my explanation. 

All of the English movie times were during the week. Tim took the next Friday afternoon  off and we met him at the subway to go downtown. 

We headed to the food court at Hyundai Department store for lunch.  Tim ordered grilled eel at the bento place.  I ordered bibimbap.  Clarissa ate my rice. 

After lunch we had an hour to kill so we decided to go for a walk.  As we walked past Miso City,  we noticed that there were some traditional houses so we decided to check them out.  There was a bit of a walking tour,  complete with stamps.  Clarissa wanted me to stamp both of her hands. 

After we completed the loop we went back to Hyundai Department Store to buy our movie tickets.  We ordered some popcorn and had to wait a few minutes before we could go to the theater. 

When we bought our tickets,  we received two small posters.  Clarissa would not let me put the Dory poster in my bookbag for safe keeping. 

She did very well in the theater.  She sat in her seat for most of the movie.  She only had to sit in my lap for the last 15 minutes or so. 

Once the movie started Clarissa was too interested in the big screen to eat her popcorn. But she was pretty quiet.  She asked a few questions but was a reasonable noise level throughout the movie. 

It was a great family outing.  I wonder what our next movie will be… 

Clarissa 2.75

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I meant to write about Clarissa’s favorite things at two and a half but never got around to it.  She has changed so much since February that I didn’t want to wait until she turns three in August to write about her favorite things. 

This week Clarissa turned two years and nine months old. She is still not potty trained.  She loves her princess panties and can go an entire day (minus nap and bedtime)  without an accident.  But she will rarely stop what she is doing to go potty. She will often tell me, “I went yest day (yesterday).” The only time she tells me she needs to go is during naptime or bedtime.  I know it is a stalling tactic,  but she does generally pee during this time.

Clarissa has really become more girly since we returned from Japan at Christmas.  Ponytails and hair clips are still rare.  But she definitely requested that I buy her a new hair bow at the px on Friday.

Clarissa is not as interested in cars,  busses,  and trains anymore.  The only time she plays with her cars and ramp is when little boys come over to play.  Yet when we went to the folk village,  the souvioneer she chose was a huge Lani bus.

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Her favorite thing to do is play with Legos.  We spend hours building things.  She will come up to me and say,  “Mommy build.” We mostly build animals from her favorite TV shows and movies.

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We sometimes paint.  She gets excited about painting her hands and feet to make crafts for the grandparents. She isn’t really interested in playing with play doh these days.

Clarissa still plays with Haven but has several other friends.  She has library friends,  neighbor friends,  church friends,  and park friends.  Her favorite friend is probably Mittens,  our kitten.

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Clarissa still likes to read.  Her favorite TV show right now is My Little Pony.  Her favorite movie last week was Toy Story.  But the week before was Frozen and the whole month before was Good Dinosaur.

We ordered a big girl bed for her this weekend at Osan so she should get to sleep on it in the next couple of weeks.  Of course Clarissa picked out some My Little Pony bedding.

I have pretty much given up on naptime. Though I still think she would benefit from sleeping, she refuses and often says, “No thanks. Maybe morrow (tomorrow).” So we have transitioned to a rest time in the afternoon and an earlier bedtime.

Food is still complicated. She will eat most fruits and vegetables in a pouch but rarely in their raw form. She will eat pepperoni,  peanuts,  and string cheese for protein.  Breakfast sausage, scrambled eggs,  apples,  and banana are hit or miss.  She loves gluten-free pretzels,  popcorn,  pasta,  and pizza.  Clarissa also drinks soy milk everyday. 

Packing the Diaper Bag

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The contents of my diaper bag has changed as Clarissa grows.

When she was small, and we were still living in Virginia, I had a normal diaper bag.

Her first few months, I would make sure the following items were packed:

  • an extra shirt for ME! (Either my breasts would leak or she would bathe me in some kind of liquid)
  • a baby outfit for every two hours I planned to be away from the house
  • a diaper for every hour I planned to be away from the house
  • a washcloth (wipe) for every hour I planned to be away from the house, plus one extra
  • my wetbag for dirty diapers
  • my mini spray bottle for diaper changes
  • two burp cloths and two bibs
  • my nursing cover (if you don’t plan to nurse, I would recommend a bottle for every two hours you will be away from home)

Clarissa weaned herself

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Clarissa has always enjoyed breastfeeding. Honestly, I have mostly enjoyed it as well. I like the alone time we spend together and the bond that we share. I wasn’t sure how long she would want to nurse. She didn’t seem to be losing interest at all and so I decided that I would wean her when she turned three. At two and a half, I told her that one day she would be too big to nurse. I said that she could nurse until she turned three but if she wanted to stop before then she could. She said okay, but I didn’t think much of it.

I noticed a pattern with Clarissa this winter. The more she ate during the day, the less she would nurse before bed. After she turned two and a half, she started drinking soymilk and some smoothies during the day. Not every day, but I was thankful that she was starting to have more protein in her diet. She then started nursing only about 10 minutes most nights.

A week before she turned two years and seven months, she asked for milk in a cup during her bedtime story. I explained to her that if she drank from a cup I would not nurse her that evening and she was fine with that. That was a Monday night. Tuesday night she asked for her milk in a cup. On Wednesday night, I handed her milk and she refused. She didn’t nap or eat well that day and she wanted to nurse. That was ten days ago. I think it’s safe to say that she has weaned herself.

I enjoyed breastfeeding Clarissa. But I am enjoying our new evening routine. Clarissa is starting to ask to pray more when Daddy does the bedtime prayer. Her first prayer went something like this, “Dear God, thank you for pink elephants and purple heffalumps…” I don’t remember everything. We were trying really hard not to laugh.

Tim and I have an additional hour in the evenings together now, which means that we have more options for activities. I really enjoy our time together after Clarissa goes to bed, so it has been fun.

Clarissa’s first haircut

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I guess that the title of this blog post is not entirely accurate. Memaw cut Clarissa’s bangs twice before we moved to Korea and I have cut them a few times. Her bangs were getting long again and the varying lengths of the rest of her hair was starting to get on my nerves. So at almost two and a half, I decided she should get her first professional haircut.

Around the time of her birthday, we had a play date at Debec department store. Across from the play area they have a place for kid’s haircuts where the kids get to sit in race cars. I made a mental note that we would come back for Clarissa’s first haircut.

We took the 156 bus to Seomun market and took the sky rail to Daebonggyo. Debec doesn’t open until 10:30 and the kid’s stuff doesn’t open until 11. We arrived about 12:15 and it was really busy. The lady I spoke to didn’t speak any English. But I wrote Clarissa’s name on the list in Hangul and decided to wait. A Korean mom explained that it would be 1:30 – 2 before it would be our turn so we would probably want to eat lunch and come back.

We headed down to the food court at B1 and ended up with Namaste Indian food for lunch. I don’t think we have eaten Indian since we arrived, so it was a fun change of pace. The owner spoke excellent English. Tim had spicy chicken vindaloo, I had a not spicy chicken, and Clarissa had some Nan. We were all very satisfied with our lunch.

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Then we headed back to the eighth floor to wait for Clarissa’s haircut. I had decided that if it wasn’t our turn yet, she would get to play in the play yard.

They were ready for her when we got there. Our stylist was beautiful but didn’t really speak English. So I pointed to Clarissa’s bangs and the back of her hair and we communicated that I just wanted a small amount cut off. I figured, Clarissa will look cute regardless and if it is too short, it will grow back.

She first offered Clarissa some candy.

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When Clarissa started to get antsy, the other stylist turned on cartoons. Clarissa did very well. She flinched every time her hair was sprayed with water. But she let the stylist cut her hair.

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When she got really wiggly, the stylist gave her a handful of candy and continued on. She even tried to curl her hair with a straightener and put some ponytails in it.

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I was very happy with the results. It cost 20,000 won (like $16.50).

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We rewarded Clarissa with some time at the play yard. It costs 4,000 won (about $3.30). I think you can drop off your child while you shop, but I never leave her. She enjoyed her playtime. It gave me an excuse to take more hair pictures, though some are blurry because she was playing.

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She started with four ponytails in her hair. An hour later, she is down to two. But she still looks cute!

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Clarissa-isms (aka hilarious things my two year old says)

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Clarissa’s speech becomes more understandable every day. Half the time I have to keep myself from laughing when I respond to her. But most other people might not understand what she is trying to say. Some of my favorites…

Our neighbor recently got a cat. The cat scratched Clarissa and she said, “Mama, Kimchi messed me up!”

She doesn’t really say Cs and Ks yet, so she refers to herself as Tessa.

If something falls she says, “help me reach it”

She does little things and exclaims, “I did it!” like I should be extremely proud of her. She also says, “Yay” and “Hurray” a lot.

This week she has started doing thumbs up. But that’s not what she calls it. She says “thumbs out”

If she isn’t happy with something she will say “somefing else.” This can refer to wanting to watch a different tv show, read a different book, or eat something.

It isn’t please, it’s still “peas.” But she is good at saying “tanks mama” for thank you.

She has been saying “like it” for a while now when she doesn’t like something. Now she has added “want it” and “want to” to her repertoire.

If I tell her something will happen, she almost always asks, “promise?” even if it’s something little like we’re going to take a bath after dinner.

If something isn’t perfect it’s “broken.” The remote control doesn’t call her friend Haven so it’s broken. The blanket on her bed isn’t straight so it’s “broken.”

“Are you doing?” if she wants to know what Tim or I are doing

“What’s dat?” or “dat one”

“Top it” means she wants you to stop. The other day it was windy on the way to the bus and she was adamant that she wanted it to stop. So I explained to her that I can’t stop the wind, only God can, so she can talk to Jesus about that. So for the next five minutes I heard “Top it Jesus,” “wind top,” “Jesus top wind!” Then we had to talk about how God doesn’t always give us what we want…

“It’s mines” even if it isn’t. We aren’t very good at sharing yet.

“One book.” She gets three books before naptime and bedtime. Well, she is supposed to. She often asks for another. And another…

“I freakin’ out” if she is upset about something

“I all done

“I cleanin'”

She also says “um” and ” Mommy, hmm” a lot. I realized this week that I definitely say “hmm”…

Clarissa can count to ten. Though I don’t think she really understands the concept. We have been reading counting books lately. So she will count to ten and then say “ready, not.” But she doesn’t always start at one. Usually she goes from three to ten. She will act like she is counting something in a book and points to things, but often gets to ten even if there are only six objects on the page.

Our door has this random alarm issue. So if it’s windy or we accidentally slam a different door in the house, an alarm sounds and I have to go outside, put the code in the door, and shut the door again. When this happens Clarissa gets a worried look on her face and says, “Mergency”

Big girl

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Clarissa has been two years old for an entire month now and I feel like she is turning into such a big girl!

One of her new favorite things to do is find a stick when we are walking on base.  They are always at least two feet long,  which is huge for her. So now a walk that should take 10-15 minutes is 30-45. Sometimes I can make her move faster by asking her if she can catch my shadow with her stick or find the next puddle to splash in.  I guess she is a nature girl,  always looking for birds and bugs.

wpid-20150910_131557.jpg2015-09-17 12.01.03The other big change is that we converted her crib to a toddler bed. She kept trying to scale her crib.  Usually when I was watching,  either in person or on the monitor.  She would get this mischievous look on her face and then start climbing.  Thankfully she obeyed when I told her to stop.  But I didn’t trust her.  So we made the change last weekend.

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She did really well during her first nap time.  That night she was so excited that she crawled in to bed and almost didn’t nurse.  I thought we might wean and move to a big girl bed all in the same day!  But as I was leaving her room,  she changed her mind.  When she woke up the next morning,  she was thrilled that she could get out of bed all by herself and run to my room before I went to go get her.

Once she realized that she could get out of bed,  the nighttime routine became harder.  Then she started coming out of her room multiple times before she would go to sleep.  So we negotiate,  take stuffed animals,  and sing songs before she actually goes to bed now.  Thankfully it only adds another 5-10 minutes to the bedtime routine.  The funny thing is that now she doesn’t get out of bed on her own in the morning.  She calls me now and waits.  Maybe she is afraid of time out if she gets out of bed because that is what happens at night?

The next day we went to a bowling birthday party.  Clarissa loved the cupcakes and balloons.  She bowled once or twice with a slide looking thing.  But the ball was 7 pounds,  too heavy for her,  so she lost interest in the actual bowling part.  But she had a great time singing,  dancing,  and touching every ball in the place.

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This week we discovered a park not far from the apartment.  The first time we went the Korean children were playing in the fountain so Clarissa joined them (sorry I was too busy watching to take pictures). Everyone wanted to ask questions and learn Clarissa’s name.  Thankfully some spoke English because I only understood a few of their questions in Korean.

Later in the week,  Clarissa and I returned with sand toys.  She had a blast making animals and digging with a shovel.

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Celebrating Clarissa

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The day before Clarissa turned two, we Skyped my parents. They were able to watch her open and play with the presents they sent her.

Clarissa turned two on a Thursday. It was pretty much a normal Thursday for us. She wanted to wear a fancy skirt and shoes. But I wasn’t allowed to touch her hair. I asked her to smile for the picture and she said no.

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We went to story time at the library to see her friends. Then she requested pizza. So we went to the PX and met Tim for lunch. We did Skype Tim’s parents and they were able to watch her open a few gifts.

Tim took Friday off so we could have a family day. We skyped my sister and brother-in-law in the morning and then headed to Duryu Swimming Pool. When we arrived, the baby pool was closed for the rest of the morning and would reopen during naptime. So we decided to give Clarissa one of her favorite foods for lunch. We bought her french fries from Lotteria and Tim and I ate at Han Sot. The food was cheap and really good. After naptime, we watched one of her birthday gifts, My Neighbor Totoro. She loves that movie. We ended up at Pizza Hut for dinner since pizza is probably her favorite food.

We spent a lot of time deciding what we wanted to do for Clarissa’s birthday celebration. At first, I wasn’t planning to have a party. We were thinking maybe a trip to Haeundae Beach. Then we thought maybe a day at E-World, since it’s actually in Daegu. But as we got closer to Clarissa’s birthday, she had a few little friends so we thought maybe a party would work.

As hot as Daegu is, it needed to be inside. So we scoped out Children’s Hall. But it was a little too advanced for two year olds, and half of the exhibits were broken. Then we thought about a pool party. But the pool on post has been out of commission for most of the summer. And we thought it would be too complicated to meet friends at a city pool and then have them come to our house. The two year olds would probably be done after the pool anyway.

So we settled on a simple birthday party at our house. There is a nice breeze on the third floor playground in the morning, so we invited Clarissa’s two best friends over for a Saturday morning playdate and cupcakes. I thought about inviting two of her other little friends from the building, but we hadn’t seen them since they started preschool in June. The week of the party, new neighbors moved in next door. They have two small boys, so we invited them too. But they ended up being sick the morning of the party so they couldn’t make it.

Our friends arrived and we headed to the playground. As it turns out, Clarissa’s two friends were at the playground too. So we invited them to join us. The kids had a blast playing with bubbles and balloons. I actually was having so much fun that I forgot to take any pictures! Thankfully the other moms took several.

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Then we headed inside for cupcakes. Most of the kids were too interested in all of the cars and Tayo’s playground to eat their cupcakes. But Clarissa thoroughly enjoyed hers and wiped all of the frosting from her hands on to my leg! She also took the plane candle off of her cupcake so we just sang without lighting a candle.

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I think our girl felt really special on her birthday. She loves opening presents. The fun part is that she kept receiving gifts in the mail on different days instead of all at once. I actually prefered it that way because it meant she opened one gift and really got a chance to play with it before she opened another one.

We decided to go back to the pool to try swimming again this Saturday. We got all the way there and then found out that they were having a swim meet that day and so we couldn’t swim yet again. But we learned that the pool is open Saturdays and not Sundays in the fall. So at least that was helpful information. Since the pool was a wash, I wanted to do something fun. They have bikes for rent at the old tennis courts in front of the pool. So for 3,000 won (less than $3) we rented Clarissa a tricycle. She loved it!

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She loved that it was pink. And that it was a dragon. And that when you touched the dragon’s hat, it made music. When we were finished, she decided to try a different bike. This time she wanted a Pororro two wheeled bike with training wheels. I think Clarissa and I will definitely take the bus to Duryu Park a few times this fall so that we can ride bikes again!

Clarissa in a nutshell

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Sometimes I can’t believe Clarissa is two already. And sometimes I can’t believe she’s only two.

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Clarissa has grown so much this year. Since her last birthday, she has learned to walk, run, jump, climb, dance, and move any other way you can think of. She can talk your ear off (though it still isn’t always in English). My big girl only nurses before bed now and she rarely nurses to sleep anymore. Clarissa has actually become a great sleeper. She usually sleeps 10-11 hours straight at night and takes a 2-3 hour nap each day.

Clarissa seemed interested in pee and poop a lot when we first moved in to our apartment so we bought her a princess potty. She promptly used it to both pee and poop once each and has yet to really try again in the past six months. She doesn’t seem as averse to diaper changes these days. Though she will tell me if she needs one lately. She picked out some princess underwear at the PX, but she doesn’t really want to wear it yet. The first couple of days, she just wanted to hold the package and bring it to bed with her.

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Clarissa likes to wear dresses, fancy shoes, and bracelets. But pony tails are strictly forbidden (unless of course they are being used as a bracelet). This week, she really wanted some Frozen hair clips at the PX. She wants to wear all six of them in her hair at once. Clarissa doesn’t really like me to brush her hair either. A comb after bathtime seems to be okay though. Recently, she has started to be particular about what she wants to wear. Sometimes she wears pajamas outside (she has Tayo and Lani pajamas). She likes to put her shoes on herself, which means that they are almost always on the wrong foot. She loves building with blocks, climbing on the playground, and going the wrong way on the slide. Clarissa prefers trucks, busses, and trains to baby dolls.

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She loves to read! (She actually got second place in the summer reading program for number of books read–and I didn’t write them all down!) I guess I should say, she loves books. She enjoys looking at them and she can point to the pictures and tell you what most of them are. We spend at least a half hour per day of me actually reading to her.

She also loves to sing and dance. She can keep time remarkably well, especially for a two year old. Lately she has also been interested in painting.

Food is hit or miss. When she first started solids, she would eat pretty much anything we put in front of her. Since we have moved to Korea, she has gotten pickier. She loves pizza, ice cream, and donuts. Who doesn’t?! She will eat peanut butter anything. Clarissa will also eat cheese, yogurt, English muffins, breakfast sausage, and scrambled eggs. Fruit and vegetable consumption is rare unless it is a fruit squeeze. Some days she likes a fruit and the next day she won’t touch it. Apples and bananas seem to be consistent though.

Common sayings and their translations:

“Mama (or Daddy) tay?” are you okay? (used if I sneeze, or if the bus moves while I am standing and holding her and we move a bit)
“o tay” okay (can sound really pitiful or really happy)
“e dat?” Do you hear that?
“help you” I need help
“hold you” I want you to hold me
“yike it” I don’t like it (usually said while shaking her head or having a meltdown)
“tank you” thank you. Sometimes she will say “welcome” if I say “you’re welcome” but please is very rare at this point
“fix it” whenever something isn’t doing what she wants it too, it is assumed to be broken. If I say it doesn’t work a certain way, she immediately goes to find Tim and says “Daddy fix it!”
New this week: “o minutes please” We have been limiting her screen time as well as trying to warn her when her playtime is almost over so she won’t freak out at mealtimes, naptime, and bedtime. So she has started asking for more minutes!

Clarissa has two friends, Jensen and Haven. She asks for them all the time. She likes to run around with them and have adventures but she is not great at sharing yet. One friend is about six months older and the other about eight months. But age doesn’t matter to Clarissa. She tries to play with all children under the age of ten and calls them “friends.” She hasn’t figured out that she is younger yet. Teenagers and adults are “people.”

Happy birthday Baby Bear! I am so glad God chose me to be your mommy! I can’t wait to see how much you grow this next year.

Breastfeeding timeline

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When I decided to breastfeed Clarissa, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While I have enjoyed this journey, sometimes I have wondered how long it would last. As we near the two year mark, I thought I would share a timeline for moms who may be wondering what it looks like to breastfeed your child as they grow.

Newborn

My milk came in really quickly. The first night we came home from the hospital, I already had more milk than Clarissa needed. Pumping would have been helpful at that point, but my pump didn’t fit correctly, so I struggled with engorgement for the first few weeks.

For the first few weeks it seemed like she nursed every 1-2 hours. After a couple of weeks it became more managable and she would nurse every 3 hours or so. By the time Clarissa was four months old, she could go about four hours between nursing sessions.

Five to nine months

We introduced some pureed vegetables to Clarissa during these months. She would nurse every 4-6 hours and then eat one serving of vegetables in the afternoon when I was working. By about seven months we added a serving of baby cereal as well. During this time, she was still waking up to nurse once or twice during the night.

Ten to twelve months

Clarissa would wake up and nurse first thing in the morning and eat some baby cereal. Then she would have some pureed fruit or vegetables, some baby crackers, and nurse before naptime. She nursed after nap as well. She would eat some vegetables and jarred food with meat with us at dinner time and then nurse before bedtime. She would wake up once 1-2 hours after she went to sleep to nurse before sleeping for 8-10 hours straight.

Clarissa didn’t have any teeth at 10 months. But by 12 months she had 8! So we probably introduced finger foods later than most due to her lack of teeth.

Twelve to fifteen months

Once Clarissa had more teeth, we added finger foods to the mix. She would nurse upon waking and then have some scrambled egg with baby cereal for breakfast. She was eating more of a lunch and not nursing consistenly before naptime. She still wanted to nurse after naptime. She would eat dinner with us and nurse before bed. At this time, she was still waking up 1-2 hours after falling asleep for one last feeding, but then would sleep ten hours straight.

Fifteen to eighteen months

When I went back to work, I was nursing Clarissa three times per day. Once in the morning, after naptime, and at bedtime. But one day I forgot to nurse her when I got home and she never reminded me. So we dropped the midday nursing and she started sleeping through the night. If I had known that, I may have dropped it earlier! At this point she went to nursing only upon waking and before bed. She slept about 12 hours at night.

In January, Clarissa started playing a lot during her bedtime nursing and I was tempted to stop nursing before bed. But at that point, I knew we were moving to Korea and I wanted to be able to nurse if she needed it with all of the changes.

Eighteen to twenty one months

I was glad that I had kept with the breastfeeding when we got here. Breastfeeding during the flight kept us (and the passengers around us) sane. Then, Clarissa caught a cold like a day after we got here. We were nursing like four or five times a day again. After she got better, I weaned her down to morning, before naptime, and before bed. When we were settled in to our apartment, we went back to twice a day. She has been sick a few times since we have been here and so then we go back to 3-4 times a day and I have to wean her back down to two. But it is consistent. When she is only nursing twice a day, she sleeps through the night.

Twenty two months

Once she hit twenty two months, she shifted in her breastfeeding. Her morning nursings have been inconsistent. She will nurse one day, skip a day, nurse, skip two days, and then nurse, skip three days. I don’t think we have nursed two mornings in a row for the past month. But we haven’t made it more than three days in a row without nursing yet either. So we will see when she finally decides that she is done with the morning nursing. But her bedtime nursing has become very business like. She nurses about ten to fifteen minutes on each side and then goes to bed without a fuss.

Twenty three months

The day she turned twenty three months was the last day that she nursed before breakfast. Now she only nurses at night. I will say that since giving up the morning nursing session, her naptime is longer.  She still nurses between twenty and thirty minutes before bed. One day she decided that she wanted to nurse in the middle of the night to make up for not nursing in the morning, but I told her she was a big girl and she could only nurse before bed (sounded harsh in my head, but I know she needs to eat more during the day if she is actually hungry since she is almost two. I was fully prepared to let her cry for twenty minutes before nursing her). So we cuddled for a minute, I changed her diaper, and put her back in her crib. She cried about five minutes and went back to bed. She hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night since, even on days when I thought she would because she didn’t eat as much real food.

Two years and six and a half months

I noticed a pattern with Clarissa this winter. The more she ate during the day, the less she would nurse before bed. After she turned two and a half, she started drinking soymilk and some smoothies during the day. Not every day, but I was thankful that she was starting to make healthier choices in her diet. She started consistently nursing about 10 minutes at night. A week before she turned two years and seven months, she asked for milk in a cup during her bedtime story. I explained to her that if she drank from a cup I would not nurse her that evening and she was fine with that. That was a Monday night. Tuesday night she asked for her milk in a cup. On Wednesday night, I handed her milk and she refused. She didn’t nap or eat well that day and she wanted to nurse. That was ten days ago. I think it’s safe to say that she has weaned herself.

How to make mommy friends

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Having lived in a twenty mile radius the first thirty one years of my life, moving to South Korea has been quite an adjustment. I have never really had to start over in the friends department. But other than Tim and Clarissa, I only knew one family when we landed in the country (and they are Tim’s friends who live four hours away).

In the past, I made friends in my normal activities like work and church. But we haven’t really found a church home and I don’t plan to work in Korea. So I had to try some other ways to make friends.

Story Time

The first place that Clarissa and I ventured to was story time at the base library. I wasn’t sure how it would go since Clarissa was only eighteen months old and has a hard time sitting. But her activity level wasn’t horribly out of place with the handful of children ages two to five. She liked seeing other children, playing with new toys, and listening to stories. We have consistently gone almost every Thursday for the past four months.

This has been the most fruitful way for me to make friends so far. One girl I met actually lives in my apartment building (a 15 minute bus ride to base). Now that her baby is a little older, she drives Clarissa and I to story time and we do a commissary run afterward. Clarissa and I really look forward to our Thursday mornings with my friend and her baby.

We have also started having weekly play dates with another little girl from story time. Her mom and I get along really well. In both instances, our husbands also get along. I have casual conversations with many of the other moms at story time and I think there are a few of the other regular attenders that I would like to get to know as well.

Most libraries in the United States have free programs and classes for parents to attend with their children. Before we moved, wanted to attend a babygarten class with Clarissa, but my work schedule didn’t allow it. Libraries are also great for summer reading programs and family book/movie activities during the school year.

Bible Study

Though we haven’t found a church service that we like yet, I did find a Bible Study on base. I enjoy the weekly worship and fellowship with other women. The group doesn’t meet in the summer, but I am hoping to make some friends when it resumes in the fall. We haven’t had any play dates from this group yet, but have been invited to two birthday parties so far.

Churches are a great way to meet likeminded women. See if your church has a mom’s group or even a women’s group. If they don’t, start one so you can make friends. It doesn’t have to be a stressful thing. There are a ton of studies available, and the fellowship will be encouraging.

The Neighborhood

I guess you could call my apartment building a complex? It has two towers with at total of 200 apartments. Our building has both an indoor and outdoor playground. Clarissa and I like to go and play several days each week. We consistently are playing at the same time as some of our neighbors. The American neighbors are a little easier to play with at this point because they have all been under five. It has been great for me to get to know some other moms. There are a few Korean preschoolers as well, so I am hoping that as my Korean vocabular increases, we can befriend them as well.

Taking a walk in the stroller around your neighborhood would be a great way to meet friends. Are there parks nearby? Are there kids down the street you can invite to play in your yard?

Online

I have also made friends online recently. I am a part of an online bookclub on Facebook. It’s pretty informal but we usually read through a book in a month or two and there is discussion.  I have also recently found a Facebook accountablity group through the Make Over Your Mornings course.  Even though I am half a world away from most of these women, we have great conversations on social media.

Community Classes

Before we moved, I was looking forward to taking a few classes once Clarissa turned two. My friend teaches a mommy and me gymnastics class and there was also a mommy and me dance class at the rec center. The rec center catalog had several options of classes that parents could take with their preschool children for a great price.

Clarissa will have to wait until she is three to take ballet on base. There isn’t a mommy and me class for that. They do have a parent and child soccer class when she is three though, so we may have to check that out. There are probably more options available in the city. Maybe when I am a little more fluent in Korean we can check out some community classes here.

Note: There is an affiliate link in this post. If you purchase the Make Over Your Mornings course through the link in this post, I will make a small commission on your purchase. However, it will not add anything to your cost.

Language Explosion

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We moved to South Korea the week after Clarissa turned eighteen months. Since we arrived, it feels like her vocabulary has exploded! When we got here, she said like ten words on a regular basis. Almost two months later, she talks all day long.

When we first got to Korea, it seemed like she was saying “baby” a lot. It took me about it day to realize that she was actually saying “beep beep” for car.

Before we moved, dog was “pup.” Once we got here it was “puppy.” Then, every animal she saw was “puppy.” Although she was most excited about dogs. All of the animals said “moo” except bears and tigers. They growled. Now she knows puppy, kitty, bear, deer, hippo, birdie, duck, fishy, shark, sheep, buzz (bee), pin (penguin), and bunny. A lot of animals still say “moo.”

She used to make a chomping sound or lift up my shirt if she was hungry. Now she will say “eat” or “nurse.” She also asks for certain foods by name. There is a brand of applesauce pouch that has a picture of an apple with a face. She calls it “bob” because it looks like Bob from Veggie Tales. This week I gave her goldfish crackers for the first time. She has asked for “fishy” three times per day. She will also ask for cookies, bread, bananas, rice, and cheese. When she asks for her water bottle it sounds more like “bowl.”

We take a lot of public transportation so she says bus and “choo choo way” (train). She usually sticks with “beep beep” for car but will occasionally say “tar.” She also knows boat.

About two weeks ago, Clarissa started adding vowels to the end of words. First she added “uh” because a lot of Korean words end in “a” (kamsahamnida, shilehamnida, yugamimnida). She would say mommya, daddya, puppya. Then she started adding “o” (like anyonghaseyo). Now she says mommyo, daddyo, puppyo.

She also says:
Pee
Poopy
Sleepy
Seep (sleep)
Eye
Nose
Feet
Sock
Shirt
Shoes
Hat
Hair
Zip
Boy
Run
Hold you (for hold me)
No
Peas (please)
Help me
Moy (more)
Gas (eye glasses)
But (button or belly button)
Book
Read
Tub
Bubbles
Pay (play)
Side (slide)
Tub
Friend
People
Ball

International Travel with a toddler

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We just moved to Daegu, South Korea. Before beginning our travel adventure, I researched traveling with a toddler. There are several websites and blogs out there, but I thought I would throw my experience into the mix.

Due to the fact that we were moving and not just going on a trip, we had a ton of stuff. We were allowed six checked bags and six carry ons. We ended up with five suitcases, a pack and play, five small carry ons, a toddler car seat, and a stroller.

What to pack in your carry on

We had five carry ons, but they weren’t all for the baby. Two were for my husband.

The first carry ons was the diaper bag.

  • Diapers and wipes

Clarissa usually uses cloth diapers, but two months of diaper laundry during hotel life seemed too daunting when I didn’t know what my laundry situation would be. I knew we would be traveling for about thirty hours. I packed twenty diapers just to be safe, but only ended up using about ten. One blog that I read recommended overnight diapers for the fourteen hour flight, so I did that. But it really was a waste. I ended up changing her diaper every 2-3 hours on the plane anyway and now I am out of overnight diapers!

I packed a small pack of wipes as well. We used the wipes for diaper changes, washing her hands before meals, and washing her face after meals.

  • Clothes

She wore a long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, and shoes onto the plane. I packed three extra shirts, three pants, socks, and a pair of footed pajamas for the trip. I only used two of the extra outfits. Clarissa never got sick during travel. But she definitely got messy while eating or trying to drink from my cup on the plane since she didn’t really want to use a bib. Choose your battles right?

  • Blankets

I packed a soft blanket for her to snuggle with and a receiving blanket for if it was cold. She never used either one.

  • Pacifiers

I had five pacifiers in my house, so I packed them all. Clarissa really hasn’t used a pacifier since our trip to Connecticut last summer. But I thought I would bring them for the take off and landing of the plane. She played with the pacifiers, but wouldn’t really put them in her mouth. She didn’t seem to have a problem with her ears anyway.

The second carry on was my bookbag.

I had a few things for me in there; my tablet, cell phone, a couple of books, and some pens. I also had some things to keep Clarissa occupied.

  • Small toys

I had a ziploc bag of small toys for Clarissa to play with. I packed a few toy cars, finger puppets, a couple of plastic animals that would fit in her hand, and a pair of sunglasses for her. She played with a few toys on the shorter flights, but didn’t really play with them on the long flight.

  • Books

Clarissa’s favorite book right now is a touch and feel book about puppies. We read that on one of the shorter flights. I brought five other paperback picture books, but we didn’t read them at all.

On the first flight, I treated myself to a magazine. She pretty much confiscated that until she fell asleep.

  • Notebook, pen, and stickers

Clarissa likes to write with a pen. She definitely spent some time on my lap writing in a notebook. She also had fun putting stickers on the page. Then, she tried taking them off the page and putting them on me and her daddy.

  • Tablet

Tim locked down a tablet for Clarissa with parental controls. He put a couple of movies on it for her. She sat on my lap and watched a few minutes of a couple different movies. She also spent some time watching the movies provided by the plane. She didn’t really like the headphones though.

The third carry on was snacks. I used this bag for snacks for all three of us.

Clarissa ate a lot on the plane. She ate two fruit pouches, a jar of chicken and vegetable baby food, almonds, craisins, and cookies on the plane. She also nursed three different times. She wasn’t thrilled with drinking from her sippy cup when mommy and daddy were drinking from clear plastic cups.

What we did

Clarissa is under two, so technically, she could have been a lap infant. But the government paid for her to have her own seat, so I didn’t complain. We decided to go ahead and buy a toddler car seat that was FAA approved for the plane. We don’t plan to own a car in South Korea but thought it would be a good way to contain Clarissa for a fourteen hour flight. We can also use this car seat when we come back to the United States to visit as she will need a car seat on those visits.

We bought a cart and bungee cord to wheel the car seat through the airport. We are so happy that we did. Our original flight was delayed due to weather so we were rerouted a different day to a different city. We had to switch airlines and had a ten hour layover so they wouldn’t let us through security and we ended up in Time Square. I don’t think we would have made it without this cart!

Security in our home airport was the hardest. I packed jarred food for Clarissa and some food pouches that were above the 3.4 ounce liquid limit. I wasn’t sure if they would make it through but decided to try because they let you follow different rules when you are traveling with a baby. They did let me keep everything, but they did a very thorough pat down and wanded my hands. The security lady said I could have had more items if I wanted to, but the problem was the size. So if you don’t want the pat down, just keep the pouches to 3.2 ounces or smaller. They didn’t care that the jarred food was more than that because the jars were clear. JFK and both Korean airports didn’t care as much about my items, though I may have fed her the larger pouches by that point so I wouldn’t have to do that again.

Our first flight was only about an hour. I buckled Clarissa into her car seat. She was seated on the aisle so that she could see everything going on around her. She definitely enjoyed kicking the seat in front of her until the plane took off. It didn’t really matter what I tried. She read her puppy book, read some of my magazine, but ultimately kept kicking. Then, she fell asleep once we took off.

During our long layover, I fed her a few times. I also let her run up and down the terminal for about an hour. Our flight didn’t leave until 12:50am, so I was hoping she would sleep well on the flight. I nursed her in the terminal as well. We tried a cover, but Clarissa didn’t like it. So we were as much in the corner as we could be. At that point, it was after 11pm and most of the people in the terminal were asleep anyway. I figured that feeding my baby and keeping her happy was more important than making sure the cover concealed everything.

I made sure to put on a new, overnight diaper before we got on the plane. We decided to put her car seat by the window, me in the middle, and Tim on the aisle. She did really well for the first hour or so. She stayed in her car seat and watched some of a movie on the back of the seat in front of her. She didn’t really like the headphones so she just watched the picture. I fed her some of the jarred food and she also had some cookies. She didn’t fall asleep even though she was clearly exhausted because the lights were on and the flight attendants were walking around giving drinks.

Then she started to get fussy so I took her out of the car seat. She spent a lot of time playing while sitting and standing in the area in front of her and my seat. The flight attendants then presented her with a gift. A little bag with a coloring book and colored pencils. She didn’t really color much. But she enjoyed taking the colored pencils in and out of that box.

After becoming fussy again (because it was now about 3am), I changed her diaper and decided to nurse her since she normally nurses to sleep at night. I didn’t worry about a cover since the flight attendants were beginning to serve dinner and I was sitting in the middle of the row anyway. By the time she was finished nursing, the lights in the cabin had been turned out. She of course, nursed to sleep. Every attempt that I had to put her in her car seat ended with her screaming. So I gave up and let her sleep on me.

She did actually sleep for about 6 or 7 hours. The problem was that she was sleeping on me so I couldn’t really sleep. Every time I moved to get comfortable, she started to cry. In the middle of her sleep she did get fussy so I changed her diaper again and then she slept another few hours until they turned the lights back on and started serving breakfast.

For the next couple of hours, she didn’t want to go back in her car seat. She spent a lot of time on the floor. She enjoyed playing with her car seat and eating snacks. She nursed again. Clarissa also spent an hour or two sitting on my lap. She watched about twenty minutes of a movie on her tablet. She also wrote in a notebook and played with stickers. She watched a movie on my lap as well.

I made her go back to the car seat for the landing, but she wasn’t happy about it. She did fall asleep during that time in the car seat.

When we arrived in Korea, we had to go through immigration. Tim waited in line while I chased Clarissa around the area. Her favorite thing was the moving sidewalks. The only problem was that she didn’t understand that they only moved in one direction. So she would get halfway and try to turn around and run the opposite direction. So I would pick her up, explain that we had to go this way, and then get off and come back on the other sidewalk. She would kick and scream. Thankfully most people thought she was adorable and didn’t seem too irritated with us. Eventually a man saw us with the baby and opened a new line just for us. I think that irritated everyone though! He called over everyone else with a baby too.

Clarissa did well in the airports. Even when she was really fussy on a flight, she was excited to be looking around once we got inside the airport. She enjoyed looking at people and investigating things in the airports.

Don’t waste your money on toys

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Once Clarissa started standing and walking, the need for toys greatly diminished.

First, she discovered the cabinets. Shortly before her first birthday, she realized that she could open them. One day, she realized that she could take things out of them. The next day, she crawled in!

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At this point, rational moms probably baby proof their cabinets with locks. But I just rearranged my cabinets so that everything in a bottom cabinet was okay for her to play with. She spent several months playing in the cabinets.

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Another of Clarissa’s favorite activities is to transfer things from one place to another. It doesn’t matter what the item is ; bears, books, straws, pots… At first she would transfer things between containers. But as she has become older (and more mobile), the piles moved greater distances. She would move her bears from her room to the other end of the house. I learned to only put away said piles when Clarissa was asleep. Otherwise there were repercussions (she would tell me off in Clarissaese and then immediately put the pile where she originally left it).

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Around Christmastime Clarissa learned to climb. She can climb many things but her favorite seems to be the dining room chairs. Sometimes she climbs up to reach whatever clutter is on the table. But sometimes I think she just likes feeling tall and looking down at things. Today she figured out how to climb on top of the table. Now that was scary!

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We have French doors that are mostly windows. Clarissa and Josie spend a lot of time looking out the window. I think they look for birds and squirrels.

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We also like to walk around outside and look at things.

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Clarissa also likes to play with remotes and cell phones. She is smart. You can’t trick her with a broken one.

Another favorite is playing with water. She could play at the sink all day. I just put a chair in front of the sink and she splashes and plays with measuring cups and other random kitchen items. Although I think I need to change the routine and do this in the morning while she is still wearing her pajamas so we don’t have to wear two outfits every day. Clarissa, the chair, and floor are definitely soaked by the end of it.

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I enjoy this age of exploration Clarissa is in right now. An added bonus is that she mostly plays with items already in the house so I don’t need to spend money on toys..

The age of independence

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It is amazing to me how much Clarissa has changed in her short 17 months! Around 16 months she entered what I am calling her “age of independence.”

She wants to do everything by herself. She wants to do it her way and it has to be right now.

For example, one day she had to play with her toys while wearing her hat and mittens.

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She has to play with my squirt bottle while (and after) I change her diaper.

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She learned how to climb the dining room chairs and she seriously spends hours each day standing on them.

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She has to have her arms filled with stuffed animals at all times. These animals also must sit correctly on whatever chair, table, or other resting place Clarissa chooses.

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Clarissa says several words now. She has also noticed loud noises more. We live near two Navy bases and an airport. Every time a plane flies over (or a firetruck drives by), she says “Oh.” and covers one ear. It’s pretty cute.

Clarissa has become a picky eater. Sometimes food becomes acceptable if it is on mommy’s plate. I would be more concerned about what she refuses to eat if she wasn’t still breastfeeding or eating fruit every day.

Her bedtime nursing is different too. She used to nurse for over an hour and eventually nurse herself to sleep. Lately, it’s nurse five minutes, roll off, try to climb through the baby gate to get to Tim or Josie, nurse the other side and repeat six or eight times until she is really tired and I let her cry it out (thankfully it’s usually only five to ten minutes of crying). She is determined to stay up and play.

Clarissa seems so grown up now. So much more like a little girl instead of a baby. There are definitely challenging moments in our day. But I am really enjoying watching her learn new things and seeing her unique personality develop.

Sleep Victory

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Thanksgiving is this week.  I am thankful for many things.  My beautiful family.  Health.  Jesus… Another thing I am thankful for this week is SLEEP.

My husband and I have never been good sleepers.  Ever.  Though there was a time not so long ago that I would fall asleep as soon as my head would hit the pillow and stay asleep until my child started crying again…

Apparently fifteen months is the magic age.  Clarissa has finally learned to sleep through the night.  We have had seven awesome nights.  In a row.  This is her longest streak ever.  And I am believing (hoping beyond hope and crossing my fingers as hard as I can)  that this is permanent.  She has even had three days in this same week that included two hour naps.  Normally,  I am lucky to get a one hour nap out of this kid!

Rest assured tired moms,  your sleep will come.  You are doing it right!  Your child just isn’t ready yet.  Remember that your child cannot read the books by the sleep experts.  He doesn’t know what he is “supposed”  to do.

Clarissa has had the same bedtime routine for months.  Truth be told,  she has been sleeping well for a few months.  She would fall asleep between 10-11 each night and would wake up to nurse once.  I have not changed her evening routine at all.

The only thing that has changed is that she gave up her mid-afternoon nursing.  If I had known it would be this easy… I would not change a thing.  I enjoy our time together.  I like watching her little personality grow and change.  I knew she would do it when she was ready.

So hang in there mom.  It will happen eventually.  In the meantime,  enjoy this season.  And take all the naps you can get.  There is no shame in sleeping when you can. Drink coffee and ask for help when you need it.  Do what you need to do to take care of yourself so you can take care of your family.  You are doing an awesome job!